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The U.S. Capitol (Michael Underwood/Navy Reserve Force)

(Tribune News Service) — The full House of Representatives approved a Department of Defense budget increased by $37 billion from the total the Biden Administration sought and including amendments boosting Hampton Roads facilities.

That increase to the $773 billion budget proposed by the administration comes through an amendment sponsored by Rep. Elaine Luria, D- Norfolk, and Rep. Jared Golden, D- Maine.

The increased budget adds $7.4 billion to compensate for the effects of inflation, with $1.4 billion to boost basic housing allowances, bonuses and commissary supports. It also adds more than $4 billion for ship construction and maintenance, more than $1.6 billion in research and development funding, and $550 million for security assistance to Ukraine.

It includes a 4.6% pay raise for service members and a 2.4% inflationary pay bonus for enlisted personnel.

In response to deaths by suicide on the USS George Washington — six in the last two years while the carrier is undergoing a major overhaul — the bill includes Luria’s call for the Navy to look into a policy to avoid having new sailors do their initial tours on a carriers undergoing a refueling, study of housing and parking facilities for sailors when their ships are in a shipyard.

For the fleet, the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes an additional $1.2 billion to fund one more destroyer than the Pentagon proposed for fiscal year 2023, and $2.4 billion for an additional frigate, tanker and two expeditionary medical ships.

The bill also includes a Luria amendment directing the Secretary of the Navy to report on options for acquiring the five and sixth Ford-class carriers, focused on the scheduling of construction and advanced procurement and whether they should be acquired in a block buy, as with the third and fourth Ford class carriers, Enterprise and Doris Miller. Ford class carriers are built at Newport News Shipbuilding.

The House bill adds $318 million to keep five of the new littoral combat ships the Navy wants to decommission and $58 million for two semi-submersible expeditionary transport dock ships also on the list for mothballing.

The House also agreed to Luria’s request to authorize $5.5 million in construction funds for an Air Force Reserve Intelligence Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. It will provide workspace for briefings, instruction, training, administration and storage the Air Force Reserve Intelligence Group and three squadrons.

In addition, the committee agreed to Luria’s request that it direct the Air Force to report on its plans for moving and basing F-22 fighters, and in particular for transferring the F-22 Formal Training Unit to Langley Air Force Base from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. As approved last year, the move to Langley would bring 31 F-22 fighters here, as well as 16 T-38s, which are used to represent hostile aircraft. The relocation would bring 760 Air Force personnel and contractors to Langley, which would become home to the 43rd Fighter Squadron, the 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron, and the 325th Training Support Squadron.

The bill also included amendments from Rep. Robert C. Scott, D- Newport News, for mental health supports for service members and to help military communities cope with climate change, as well as amendments from Rep. Rob Wittman, R- Westmoreland, prohibiting the disposal of Littoral Combat Ships unless the ships are transferred to an ally and requiring more reporting from DoD’s Inspector General on aid to Ukraine.

It also establishes a commission to review the force structure of the Navy, with an emphasis on readiness, training, ship maintenance, ship building, manning, and personnel.

“As a 20-year Navy veteran, I am proud of the progress we have made in this year’s NDAA to grow our Navy, strengthen our military, and send a clear message of our commitment to freedom and global security,” said Luria, who is vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee.

“This year’s NDAA does right by our service members and their families, reverses Biden’s reckless defense cuts, counteracts Biden’s harmful inflation, provides the resources we need to deter Chinese aggression, and protects our homeland,” said Wittman, who is senior minority member of the House seapower subcomittee.

“This legislation takes care of our service members and their families, invests in Hampton Roads, and advances America’s global leadership,” said Scott.

The bill passed 329-101.

©2022 Daily Press.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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