House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday evening on a $1.01-trillion spending bill that funds most of the government through the end of September and provides the Defense Department $490.2 billion in the base budget and $64 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund.
In the Navy procurement budget, appropriators provided $848.5 million for the refueling and complex overhaul of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73); full funding for three Littoral Combat Ships as well as $80 million for long-lead parts for the final ship of the block buy; $81.7 million to keep the Tomahawk missile production line open; and full funding for the Ohio-class replacement submarine and the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike development programs.
In contrast to the House and Senate armed services committees’ defense authorization bill, the appropriators chose to give the Navy a little extra support. The spending bill provides $1.46 billion to purchase 15 EA-18G Growlers, whereas the armed services committees gave $450 million for five jets. It includes $1 billion to incrementally fund a 12th San Antonio-class LPD dock landing ship, whereas the defense authorization bill gave $800 million. And the bill includes $200 million for an additional Joint High Speed Vessel, whereas the armed services committees cut the $4.5 million the Navy requested for program closeout support.
For the Air Force, appropriators provided $337.1 million to maintain the A-10 fleet and $90.5 million to continue operations of the full fleet of 31 E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACs) radar aircraft despite the Air Force’s desire to retire both fleets to save money; $220 million to fund a competition to develop a new rocket propulsion system to replace the Russian-made RD-180; and $125 million for an additional competitive space launch.
In the Army’s procurement account, appropriators gave $72 million for the Improved Recovery Vehicle, $28.5 million for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, $120 million for the Abrams tank and $79 million for Stryker vehicle development and production in an effort to stabilize the ground vehicle industrial base. Lawmakers also gave full funding for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program to keep it on schedule, as well as $4 million to study whether the Stryker or any other existing vehicle could compete in a follow-on to the current AMPV program.
Like the armed services committees, the appropriators limit the transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard to the active component and require that the Army fully invest in Apache maintenance and crew training. They also added $341 million to modernize up to 12 Apache helicopters and nine UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
The spending deal provides $224 million for two F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and $255 million for two additional F-35Cs beyond the Air Force’s and Navy’s respective requests, funding a total of 38 JSFs in the bill. The appropriators added $50 million into the budget for the Missile Defense Agency to improve the reliability and maintainability of its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system at home and an additional $347 million to support missile defense programs in Israel. In total, the bill gives $619.8 million for Israeli missile defense programs.
The Department of Homeland Security did not fare as well as DoD, with funding frozen at fiscal year 2014 levels until Feb. 27. As a Senate Appropriations Committee press release notes, “under a [continuing resolution], the Department cannot fund new proposals requested by the President or improvements to his request contained in the House and Senate reported bills”–which was meant to prevent President Barack Obama from implementing any of his immigration reforms he outlined last month, but would also include new procurement and other initiatives for the Coast Guard, border security and more set to begin in FY ’15.
The House Rules Committee met Wednesday afternoon to discuss how to move forward with the spending bill and whether to allow any amendments. The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon, and the Senate would immediately begin consideration and hopefully pass the bill by Friday, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. All told, the president could receive the bill within 72 hours of the House and Senate finalizing their compromise bill.
Though Mikulski called the spending deal a “monumental achievement” even though “we argued, we debated, we fought” over the final language, House Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) was decidedly less pleased with the bill when she spoke to the House Rules Committee. She said that the appropriators had an agreement on Department of Homeland Security spending for the full year, and “this bill could have and should have been included in this package.” She said its exclusion was “not over differences the subcommittee had” but rather for political reasons. The end result would be DHS losing its ability to begin new procurement programs and launch new initiatives and hiring efforts.