House panel approves $674.6B Pentagon spending bill
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday easily advanced its $674.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal year 2019.
The committee voted 48-4 to approve the bill, which would provide $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding and $68.1 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.
“We recognize that it is the men and women of our Armed Forces — all volunteers — and their families who form that foundation of our national security, and this legislation funds them as fully as we can,” committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said.
During the markup, the committee also rejected on a party-line 22-30 vote an amendment from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would have ended the 2001 war authorization still used as the legal justification for U.S. military action against terrorist groups.
The rejection comes a year after the committee surprisingly approved the amendment only to have House leadership strip it out of the bill before it came to the floor.
The base budget amount in the defense bill is about $900 million less than the Trump administration requested but $17.1 billion more than this year’s spending level.
The money would pay for a boost of 15,600 troops across the military and a 2.6 percent pay raise for service members — matching a pair of requests by the administration.
The bill would also provide $145.7 billion for equipment purchases and upgrades, with $133 billion for base requirements — $2.5 billion more than requested — and $12.7 billion for the OCO.
The procurement money includes $22.7 billion for 12 new Navy ships, two more ships than the administration requested. The two extra ships are littoral combat ships, which Congress continues to support buying, despite the Navy’s plan to transition away from the ship, so that shipyards keep working and will be able to keep pace with future orders.
The bill would also fund a slew of new aircraft, including $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 fighter jets — 16 more jets than the administration requested.
The F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin in defense appropriations subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger’s (R-Texas) district.
Granger said she crafted the bill with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford’s warning that “the U.S. military’s competitive advantage against potential adversaries is eroding” in mind.
“The priorities in this bill not only stop the erosion, but also enables our military to restore and increase their competitive advantage,” she said.
Though supportive of the bill itself, Democrats expressed concern about being able to sustain the level of funding in future years for which Congress has not yet reached a budget agreement.
“I am concerned about the future of our national security as we approach the FY2020 cliff without another budget agreement,” committee ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said. “Our service members and industrial base alike need certainty to plan accordingly and continue to innovate.”