Congress came to a deal late Tuesday night on government spending for the current fiscal year, unveiling a $1.1 trillion package that includes about $573 billion for the Defense Department.
That sum, which breaks down to $514 billion for Defense Department base expenses and $59 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations, is in line with the Bipartisan Budget Act, a House aide told Defense Daily. The budget deal’s $607 billion limit for defense also includes national security funding that is covered in different appropriations bills, such as the military construction bill that has already been passed.
The Navy was the clear winner out of the services, picking up about $3.2 billion more in procurement funding than originally requested in the president’s budget. For the most part, the services’ big-ticket modernization priorities received full funding, and in some cases additional money. Aircraft procurement and shipbuilding fared especially well.
The F-35 came out successful in the funding battle, as congressional appropriators opted to procure five more F-35s than the armed services committees. The bill provides $1.33 billion for 11 Joint Strike Fighters above the president’s request, including six Marine Corps F35Bs, three Air Force F-35As, and two F-35Cs for the Navy. The National Defense Authorization Act conference report authorizes funds for only six Marine Corps jets. Lockheed Martin [LMT] manufactures the F-35.
Congress also included additional funding that could help keep Boeing’s [BA] Super Hornet production line open past 2017, when all current orders are slated to dry up. The bill sets aside $1 billion for seven E/A-18G Growlers and five F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The omnibus supersedes the NDAA authorization for 12 Super Hornets.
It also includes $80 million for four additional MQ-9 Reaper drones, built by General Atomics, and $96 million for one Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the Navy. It provides $500 million more than the president’s request for “intelligence, surveillance and intelligence capabilities,” the Senate summary states.
In shipbuilding, appropriators set aside $18.7 billion to buy 11 ships: two Virginia-class submarines, two DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), one LPD-28 amphibious transport dock, one Joint High Speed Vessel, one Afloat Forward Staging Base and one T-AO fleet replenishment oiler.
However, Congress also cut $35 million from one of the systems in the LCS’s mine countermeasures missions package, the Remote Minehunting System, which is currently undergoing an independent review that will determine whether to move forward with the system.
Like the NDAA, the appropriations bill also includes incremental funding for an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that would bring the number of DDG-51s acquired from 2013 to 2017 to 11. Appropriators also followed the armed services committees by boosting advance procurement funds to help speed up new programs. The omnibus provides $250 million for the Navy’s newest class of amphibious ships, the LX(R), and $199 million for the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship.
The bill contains $300 million in additional funding for the Navy’s carrier launched drone—the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system—that could entail big changes for the program. Appropriators want the additional monies to be used for “competitive UCLASS air vehicle development,” the Senate summary omnibus plan said. While it does not spell out exactly what that entails, the armed services committees in the NDAA similarly advocated for the development at least two demonstration UAVs to push technology forward.
Two of the Air Force’s top modernization priorities saw cuts in the omnibus bill. The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) program was trimmed by $510 million, reducing the $1.2 billion request to $736.2 billion because of changes necessary to “rephrase funds to [the program’s] current schedule,” budget justification documents state.
The Long Range Standoff (LRSO) weapon, a new air-launched nuclear cruise missile that some lawmakers want to cancel (Defense Daily, Dec. 15), was hit with a $20 million cut that brings total program funding to $16 million.
While ground vehicle programs were not drastically cut, many programs such as Stryker and Bradley faced slight reductions from the president’s budget request. For instance, procurement funding for Army and Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle was sliced by $77 million between the two services, because of “contract delay[s]” and “unit cost savings,” a budget justification document read. The one exception was the M88A2 Hercules, which received $72 million more than requested for “16 additional vehicles and support to the industrial base.”
Appropriators cut $30 million from the $40.6 million request for the Army’s JLENS, also known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, a tethered aerostat with cruise missile detection capabilities made by Raytheon [RTN]. JLENS came under scrutiny in October after it became untethered and floated away, causing damage to residential areas and leading to an embarrassing hours-long search for the system.
The Missile Defense Agency fared well, with appropriators providing $8.1 billion for the agency, an increase of $175 million above the president’s request. The bill also fully funds the requests for the Ground Based Interceptor, Long Range Discrimination Radar and European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) Phase III.
Congress also tacked a landmark piece of cybersecurity legislation onto the omnibus bill, the Cyber Information and Sharing Act (S.754). The bill, which the Senate passed in October, promotes the sharing of cyber threat indicators between the private sector and the federal government (Defense Daily, Oct. 27).
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who co-authored the bill with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), said she was pleased by CISA’s inclusion in the omnibus.
“The bill encourages the voluntary sharing of cyber-threat information, both company-to-company sharing as well as between companies and the government. This type of information sharing—with strict safeguards for private information—is key to countering cyber attacks,” she said in a statement.
The omnibus maintains the original Senate language on use of a Department of Homeland Security portal to share information as well as liability protections for companies, she added.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said, “The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 is an important first step toward improving our cyber-defenses. It’s not perfect, but it’s a big step in the right direction, one that Congress has been trying to enact for several years,”
The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees urged swift passage of the bill. The House is slated to vote on the package on Friday, with the Senate following. Should the continuing resolution currently working its way through Congress be signed into law, it will have until Dec. 22 to approve the bill.
“This legislation is our best option to responsibly meet national security requirements, improve our country’s infrastructure and address other public needs,” said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). “We’ve worked on a bipartisan basis to produce a bill that will make important investments to aid our economy and promote more effective and efficient government.”
While passing an omnibus spending bill is not the optimal solution, the agreement should appease both Republicans and Democrats, said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) in a statement.
“This package reflects conservative priorities in both funding and policy, including support for critical areas such as our national defense, halting many harmful regulations and trimming wasteful spending. But it also represents a compromise that members on both sides of the aisle can and should get behind,” he said.