A bill that would enlist an independent research group to study the impact of “pass-through” funding to Department of the Air Force and other services’ programs is before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), but is unlikely to be considered this year.

Introduced in April by Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), the Defense Budget Transparency Act of 2022, H.R. 7574, would require DoD to submit by Feb. 25 next year “an analysis of the positive and negative effects” of pass-through budgeting, a determination as to whether such funding “creates an inaccurate impression among members of the public, Congress, and policy makers” on actual funding for service programs, and a recommendation on whether pass-through dollars “should instead be included in a separate accounting line within that budget or allocated to another defense-wide account.”

Bacon is a retired Air Force brigadier general, while Kahele is a lieutenant colonel serving in the 201st Air Mobility Operations Squadron with the Hawaii Air National Guard at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Both Bacon and Kahele are on the HASC tactical air and land forces panel.

In fiscal 2023, the Air Force requested $243.1 billion, yet $40.1 billion was “non blue” pass-through funding  for intelligence agencies and other accounts.

Pass-through funding “has fueled the myth that each military service receives an equal share of the defense budget,” per Kahele’s office.

“For decades, the U.S. Air Force budget has been underfunded and over burdened by non-Air Force expenses, resulting in the most outdated air fleet in its history,” Kahele said in a statement in April. “The Defense Budget Transparency Act will ensure that the U.S. Air Force budget is fairly represented so that the Air Force is better positioned to modernize and maintain a competitive advantage against our adversaries.”

“Last year, I urged the Department of Defense to reallocate the Air Force ‘pass-through’ budget to a DoD defense-wide budget account, only to be met with resistance,” he said. “This bill, critical to the modernization and investment of Pacific Air Forces and strategic bases like Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, is a move in the right direction.”

The Air & Space Forces Association has backed the Bacon/Kahele measure, but its provisions will likely have to wait until next year at the earliest, as the language of H.R. 7574 was included in neither the House nor the Senate version of the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill.

Other legislative priority requests for the Air & Space Forces Association this year include an increase of 15 Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35A aircraft from the 33 that the Air Force requested in fiscal 2023 and cancelling the planned retirement of 33 Block 20 F-22s to spend $1.8 billion over eight years to upgrade those older F-22s to the Block 30 standard.

Congress has not included those provisions in the fiscal 2023 defense bills thus far.

The association said that the fiscal 2023 buy of 33 F-35As would be the lowest since 2016 and that the fiscal 2023 Air Force request funds Technology Refresh-3 (TR-3) as a basis for the aircraft’s planned Block 4 upgrades.

In its report on the fiscal 2023 defense appropriations bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee said that “development and test activities on the critical path for the Block 4 and TR–3 capability upgrades continue to experience repeated delays and are jeopardizing the current timeline for planned integration into lot 15 aircraft.”

“Therefore, the committee directs the Program Executive Officer, F–35 Joint Program Office to provide the congressional defense committees an updated assessment of the Block 4 and TR–3 development programs, to include an assessment of the critical paths, not later than 30 days following enactment of this act and written notification following each subsequent breach in timeline for those activities identified along the critical path,” per the committee report.