Funding deal includes $696B for Pentagon

Greg Nash

Congress’s massive year-end government spending and coronavirus relief deal includes $696 billion for the Pentagon for fiscal 2021.

The Pentagon funding is part of $1.4 trillion in the deal to fund the government through fiscal 2021. The 5,593-page bill, released Monday afternoon and expected to be voted on later in the day, also includes $900 billion for coronavirus relief.

The coronavirus relief portion of the bill includes an extension of an authority first approved in March that allows the Pentagon to reimburse contractors for delays and other added costs due to the pandemic. Section 3610, as the authority is known, would be extended through March.

The $696 billion in Pentagon funding is part of the bill’s total $740.5 billion for defense, which also includes non-Pentagon programs such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.

The funding deal eschews several controversial policy issues that were addressed in the initial House-passed version of the fiscal 2021 Pentagon spending bill, reflecting the Senate version of the spending bill released in November but never voted on separately that similarly avoided policy debates.

Among the provisions dropped from the deal were ones to block the use of Pentagon funding for a barrier on the southern border, repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force, block funding for military action against Iran and bar funding from being used to implement the Pentagon’s ban on transgender troops.

Also gone from the deal is $1 million that was set aside in the House bill for the Army to rename military bases named for Confederates. Still, the defense policy bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress earlier this month that Trump is threatening to veto requires the names to be changed.

The Pentagon funding in Monday’s deal is broken down into $627.3 billion in the base budget and $68.7 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account.

Funding would go toward a 3 percent pay raise for troops. It would also add a net 9,100 active-duty service members to the military: 5,900 new soldiers, 7,300 new sailors and 900 new airmen. The Marine Corps would decrease by 5,000 service members.

The funding would also buy 96 new F-35 fighter jets, or 17 more than requested by the administration.

Other aircraft funded in the bill include 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 12 F-15EX fighter jets. The bill would also fund 16 MQ-9 Reaper drones, as well as nine P-8A Poseidon aircraft for the Navy Reserve, after the administration requested none of either.

The bill includes $23.3 billion to buy 10 new Navy ships, including two Virginia-class submarines. The administration’s original request only asked for one Virginia-class sub to the consternation of lawmakers, though the administration asked for a second one last month.

The shipbuilding budget would also buy two guided missile destroyers, one Columbia-class submarine, one frigate, two towing, salvage and rescue ships, one expeditionary fast transport and one amphibious transport dock.

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