The Pentagon’s shipbuilding accounts, aircraft inventories and research and development (R&D) funds are among the major winners included in the fiscal year 2019 (FY’19) defense appropriations conference report, which lawmakers released Sept. 13.

If passed, the joint agreement for H.R. 6157, the Defense-Labor- Health and Human Services minibus bill, would include about $674 billion for the base budget and overseas contingency operations (OCO) funds, about $1.9 billion less than was initially requested. It is a $19 billion increase over the FY’18 enacted levels. Negotiators highlighted $3.8 billion in rescissions to prior-year funding for programs that are delayed or no longer required.

	The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.
The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense. DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.

The bill includes $135 billion in procurement, which is just over a 1 percent increase over last year’s appropriated funds, and $4.8 billion more than the Pentagon identified in its FY ’19 presidential budget request, released in February.

The Navy’s shipbuilding accounts could receive $24 billion, over $2 billion more than requested in the presidential budget. The conference agreement would fund the construction of 13 new ships. Notably, it includes three DDG-51 destroyers and three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), two more than requested, among other investments. The agreement also supports building two Virginia-class submarines.

It also includes funds to accelerate future shipbuilding priorities: $700 million in advanced procurement dollars for the service’s next-generation Landing Platform/Dock (LPD) and LHA 9 amphibious warfare ships; $250 million for an additional DDG-51 ship in FY’20 and $225 million for submarine industrial base expansion.

Aviation programs could receive $43 billion for procurement. The agreement approves $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force, Marines and Navy. That includes $1.7 billion for 16 additional F-35s above the requested amount. Half of those additional aircraft would go to the Air Force, two to the Marine Corps and six to the Navy. (Defense Daily, Sept. 14)  Lockheed Martin [LMT] manufactures the Joint Strike Fighters.

The Air Force would receive nearly $2.3 billion for 15 KC-46 next-generation tanker aircraft, currently in development by Boeing [BA]. That is lower than the $2.5 billion originally requested by the Air Force, but conference negotiators noted that was due to several capabilities being ahead of need, such as the depot stand up and an aircrew training system, as well as unit cost savings.

The conference report includes $100 million for the Air Force’s OA-X light attack aircraft effort. The service in February highlighted $300 million in unfunded priorities as it continued the experiment to rapidly procure an off-the-shelf aircraft, which was included in the Senate version of the bill, but not the House. The funds would be used for procurement of aircraft and long-lead materials, according to budget documents.

Air Force officials have not fully committed to the light attack program yet, and have been careful to note that effort is not a program of record. In August, the service released a notice of intent to put out a request for proposals by the end of the calendar year.

Military rotorcraft will receive increased funding, including $468 million for six additional V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and $168 million for six AH-64E Apache aircraft for the Army (Defense Daily, Sept. 14).

The proposed bill also includes increased year-over-year spending for the Air Force’s two forthcoming nuclear-capable missiles, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and the Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO) (Defense Daily, Sept. 14). Missile defense overall could receive over $10 billion, including over $1 billion more than originally requested.

The Air Force could receive $2.3 billion in space procurement funding, about $200 million less than it requested in February.

The report provides $2 billion for the Army’s M-1 tanks, and supports the service’s plan to accelerate the pure-fleet Stryker “double-V” hull. (Defense Daily, Sept. 14)

Conference negotiators included $24 billion in research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) funds, a significant bump compared to the original request of about $22 billion. The agreement increases investments in hypersonics research (+$617 million), directed energy (+$184 million), artificial intelligence and machine learning (+$147 million), next-generation microelectronics (+$397 million) and basic research (+$283 million).

The agreement eliminated about $380 million in RDT&E funds, meant to be allocated to the Air Force’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) replacement program. The service succeeded in its effort to cancel the program, opting for a new strategy dubbed the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which would use a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft to carry out the mission, which is currently performed by Northrop Grumman’s [NOC] E-8 airborne ground surveillance, battle management and command-and-control aircraft.

The conference report includes $24.8 million for E-8 aircraft upgrades as the service continues to refine the ABMS strategy.

The agreement includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for U.S. servicemembers, and an increase in active duty end strength of 16,400 over FY’18 levels.

The Senate plans to vote on the conference report this week, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC). The House is scheduled to remain in recess until Sept. 25, and will have four days to approve the package before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. If passed before that deadline, it would be first time in nearly a decade that the defense spending bill were passed before Oct. 1, according to a SAC statement.

The House version of the Defense funding bill was passed June 28, while the Senate passed its minibus bill Aug. 23.