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ANALYSIS

Defense gets big boost in proposed bipartisan spending deal

The U.S. Capitol.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 1, 2017

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan spending deal reached by lawmakers this weekend provides a $25 billion increase for defense spending and, if passed, will jump-start the military buildup that President Donald Trump has promised.

The just under $593 billion for defense spending was reached by lawmakers from both houses late Sunday after Trump signed off on the bill earlier in the day. Combined with the $5.8 billion supplemental funding enacted by legislators in December, it brings the 2017 defense spending to $598.5 billion.

The defense spending portion, part of a $1.16 trillion spending package known as the Omnibus Appropriations bill, preserves a 2.1 percent pay raise for the military, calls for an increase in troop numbers that overrides planned reductions, and funds operations, maintenance, research and development shortfalls that service chiefs have warned were reaching critical point.

The Senate and House of Representatives must pass the bill this week to avoid a government shutdown Friday when the weeklong extension of a stopgap spending bill expires. So far, leaders on both sides called it a win.

“We couldn’t be more pleased,” Vice President Mike Pence said Monday on CBS “This Morning” Monday. “It not only averted a government shutdown, it’s going to be a significant increase in military spending.”

While Pence touted added funding for border security and increases in defense, Democrats hailed their victories in removing Trump’s demands to insert funding for a border wall with Mexico, the inclusion of health care subsidies for the needy under the Affordable Care Act and funding for the National Institutes of Health and Planned Parenthood.

“This bill ensures taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund an ineffective border wall, excludes poison pill riders and increases investments in programs that the middle class relies on, like medical research, education and infrastructure,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “This agreement is good for the American people.”

Government funding for the 2017 fiscal year, including for defense, has been coming in fits and starts since it began Oct. 1, with lawmakers passing stopgap measures that carried last year’s spending over temporarily while they haggled over a new bill.

With no corrections for inflation and no ability to plan out their operations, military service chiefs lamented that under years of stopgap measures -- known as continuing resolutions -- operations, training and modernization have been taking hits, cutting deeply into readiness.

Trump took office promising a turnaround for the military. After compiling lists from each of the services, he called for a $30 billion supplement to the 2017 spending bill to correct defense shortfalls. The proposed omnibus bill does not cover the entirety of that request, but comes close, with a defense bill that is $25.7 billion more than the 2016 fiscal year, according to documents presented by the House Appropriations Committee.

“The legislation represents a $25 billion increase in national defense funding over current levels – a major stride forward in restoring the strength and capacity of our Armed Forces,” noted a news release issued by the committee.

In order to cover the increase, without busting spending caps that would trigger automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, appropriators raised the Overseas Contingency Operations funding, known as the war fund, to $76.6 billion – a $14.8 billion increase from its current funding.

In addition to defense, the bill also includes 2,500 visas for Afghan civilians who worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and are now facing threats from anti-American forces.

The added defense funding will allow for training and facility maintenance, modernization programs, continued development of next generation jets, surveillance aircraft and submarines, and procurement of ships, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and patriot missiles, according to details released by the House Appropriations Committee.

It also provides for an increase of 1,000 active-duty soldiers, 1,000 active-duty Marines and 1,000 soldiers each to the National Guard and Reserves.

Highlights include:

  • $132 billion to provide pay and support for 1,305,900 active duty and 813,200 Guard and Reserve troops (including $1.6 billion above the request for increased end strength, to support personnel and operational support)
  • Denies troop reductions proposed by the administration of former President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget request
  • Fully funds the 2.1 percent military pay raise
  •  $223 billion for operations and maintenance, which includes flight time and training, equipment and facility maintenance, base operations, facility sustainment and modernization and additional depot maintenance
  •  $73.7 billion for researching and developing new defense technologies, specifically the F-35, the new Air Force bomber programs, the next generation Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, the RQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the replacement for the Ohio-class submarine
  •  $123 billion for equipment procurement including 13 Navy ships, three guided-missile destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships, a dock landing ship for the polar icebreaker, 74 F-35s, 14 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 62 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 52 remanufactured and seven new AH-64 Apache helicopters, and 145 Patriot MSE missiles
  •  $34.1 billion for Defense Health and Military Family programs, including research for cancer, traumatic brain injury, psychological health and sexual assault prevention and response programs
    LINK | The full, detailed report, courtesy of the House Appropriations Committee

Upon release of the bill, the chairmen of the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., issued statements describing the highlights and urging members of Congress to support the bill.

“This package of the remaining Appropriations bills is the result of over a year’s worth of careful and dedicated efforts to closely examine federal programs to make the best possible use of every tax dollar,” Frelinghuysen said. “It is time that we complete this essential work. It is a solid bill that reflects our common values and that will help move our nation forward and I urge its quick approval by Congress and the White House.”

cahn.dianna@stripes.com
Twitter: @DiannaCahn

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FY 2017 Omnibus Summary - Defense Department

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