House and Senate negotiators unveiled a fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill May 1 that includes billions of dollars to buy dozens of fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft above the Pentagon’s budget request.
The main defense section contains $8.2 billion to procure 74 F-35s for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, 11 jets and $1.25 billion above the request. It would give the Navy 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 12 jets and $979 million above the request.
Aircraft additions for the Army include 25 UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, 12 MQ-1C Grey Eagle unmanned aircraft, five AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and 28 UH-72 Lakota light-utility helicopters.
Other aviation additions include two C-130J transports for the Air National Guard, two MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft for the Marines and one CV-22 for Air Force Special Operations Command. Funding is also provided to replace Air Force EC-130H Compass Call electronic-attack aircraft and UH-1N Huey helicopters.
The bill provides $21.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding, $2.8 billion and three ships above the request. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, the bill funds a total of 10 ships, including two Virginia-class submarines, three DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships, one LHA amphibious assault ship and one LPD amphibious transport dock. The House Appropriations Committee puts the number of ships at 13 by including two ship-to-shore connectors and a moored training ship.
The bill funds advance procurement for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and Ford-class aircraft carrier programs. It contains $150 million to buy long-lead-time materials for the Coast Guard’s first new polar icebreaker. The Homeland Security section of the bill includes $27 million related to pre-acquisition activities for icebreaker.
In missile defense, the bill provides $600.7 million for Israeli programs, $454 million above the request. It also fully funds a request to start developing two airborne laser prototypes.
To buy Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles for Navy vessels, the bill includes $219 million, $56 million above the request.
Overall, the defense appropriations bill contains $516.1 billion in base defense spending and $61.8 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO), compared to DoD’s request for $517.7 billion in base spending and $58.6 billion for OCO.
The $1.07 trillion omnibus also contains a $15 billion defense supplemental, half the Trump administration’s request. The supplemental includes $9 billion for flying hours, training, weapon system maintenance and other readiness efforts; $2.5 billion for munitions, war consumables and spare parts; $1.4 billion to modify existing weapon systems; $970 million to address urgent needs identified by the Joint Staff, including countering unmanned aircraft; and $359 million to replace MV-22, Apache and Grey Eagle aircraft lost in operations.
“In total, the bill provides $593 billion [for defense], an increase of $19.9 billion over the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $16.3 billion more than the Obama administration’s request,” the House Appropriations Committee said.
Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, welcomed the omnibus but said it falls far short of meeting the military’s needs.
“This agreement makes a down payment on restoring our military,” he said. “We still have a long way to go to get our military in shape to meet the threats we face, and the importance of adequate funding in FY 2018 grows by the day.”
The omnibus also includes $19.7 billion for NASA, including $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System, $150 million above the FY 2016 enacted level, and $1.35 billion for the Orion crewed vehicle, $80 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.
Congress plans to pass the omnibus before the current continuing resolution expires May 5.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that the ability of lawmakers to forge a bipartisan agreement on the omnibus and avoid a government shutdown “bodes well” for their upcoming work on the FY 2018 budget.