House panel unveils $579B bill funding Pentagon

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a nearly $579 billion bill funding the Defense Department for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The bill provides about $24 billion more than the current 2015 fiscal year and $800 million above President Obama’s request, according to the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, which will mark up the bill behind closed doors Wednesday.

To circumvent budget caps that are set to return in October, Republicans propose boosting the Pentagon’s war fund to about $88 billion. That’s about $38 billion above Obama’s request and the additional funds are not offset.

The bill comes just a few days after the House defied a White House veto threat and approved a $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2016 in a 269-151 vote. All but eight Republicans backed the measure as well as 41 Democrats who broke with their party.

A majority of Demcrats, however, have already aligned themselves with the White House and reject the GOP strategy to use the Pentagon's war fund to ignore budget ceilings.

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While the defense appropriations bill only covers the Pentagon, the NDAA authorizes programs for the Defense Department as well as the State Department, military construction programs and veterans’ benefits.

For military personnel and their pay, the defense funding bill includes about $133 billion for more than 1,300,000 active-duty troops and more than 800,000 Guard and reserve troops. This is $225 million above the 2015 level and fully funds the 2.3 percent pay raise for the military rather than Obama’s request for a 1.3 percent increase.

The bill contains nearly $219 million for operations and maintenance, which supports military readiness programs to prepare troops for peacetime missions and combat.

If enacted, the Pentagon would get nearly $117 billion to procure equipment, which is about $13 billion above the current level and $3 billion above Obama’s request. The bill includes funding for the military to purchase Navy ships, guided missile destroyers, blackhawk helicopters, tanker aircraft, F-35 aircraft and combat ships, among other things.

For the Defense Health Program, the bill provides $31.7 billion, which is $667 million below the current level and $813 million below Obama’s request.

“While below the current year, this level is sufficient to meet the entire scope of all estimated needs and requirements in the next fiscal year,” the subcommittee said, explaining the cut.

The funding bill, like the NDAA policy measure, would block funding from being used to transfer detainees held at Guantanamo Bay prison to U.S.-based facilities.

Despite an attempt by the Air Force to retire the A-10 Warthog aircraft, a Cold War-era jet,  the funding bill ensures that the aircraft remains available to provide close air support.