The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved its $826.5 billion fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill, which includes a nearly $2 billion cut to multi-year procurement for select munitions and a slew of GOP-led proposals Democratic members criticized as “needlessly divisive.”

The bill, which was passed along a party line 34 to 24 vote, aligns with the defense spending cap set in the debt ceiling agreement passed earlier this month.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) speaks at the OM&S Warehouse ribbon-cutting ceremony at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division on Nov. 8. 2019. Photo by Sgt. Becky Cleveland, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chair of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, detailed some of the adjustments to the president’s budget request, which included a $4 billion cut to procurement while boosting research and development by $2 billion and operation and maintenance accounts by around $3 billion.

“In many cases, reductions were made because the department failed to justify the request. One example is the department’s request for economic order quantities for certain munitions tied to multi-year procurement,” Calvert said during the markup. “Because of the poor justification, other urgent unfunded needs, and sufficient enduring support for the munitions industrial base, the bill does not fund this request.”

Calvert added that the $2 billion cut to multi-year procurements was above the $20 billion already in the individual military services’ weapons accounts, to include $4 billion already set aside for five multi-year munitions buys and another $1 billion for funds to support industrial base efforts.

“As many of you know, multiyear procurement is a contracting vehicle used to achieve savings and send a strong signal to the industrial base. The subcommittee sees value in the use of these contracts when appropriate, which is why this bill authorizes multiyear procurement for five critical munitions,” Calvert said. “However, the department failed to justify why they also need nearly $2 billion in fiscal year 2024 to shore up contractors who have received a steady demand signal through the funds provided in annual appropriation bills and recent supplementals.”

The five munitions that the House Appropriations Committee granted funding in the bill for multi-year procurements are Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile, Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] GMLRS rocket and PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhanced, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. 

“But let me be clear. This reduction will not adversely impact the ability of industry to produce these munitions. It merely requires the department to request the funding they need to execute these contracts in their annual budget requests. Further, it reinforces to the department that this committee will not cede its annual oversight responsibilities, especially for concepts that are poorly justified,” Calvert added.

The Pentagon is seeking Congressional appropriators’ support for multi-year buys after defense authorizers included a provision in the current National Defense Authorization Acts allowing such contracts in order to help replenish or boost stockpiles select critical munitions.

Much of the debate during the full committee markup focused on Democrats’ amendments to repeal GOP-proposed provisions in the bill that block Diversity, Equity and Inclusion-related programs as well as prohibiting the use of funds to assist those seeking abortion-related services, among other items.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the top Democrat on the defense subcommittee, said Thursday the Republican policy riders in the bill were “not germane to the Defense Appropriations Act” and “needlessly divisive.” 

“I must be honest with you, I did not see many of these new general provisions coming – especially on the defense bill. I was shocked when I read them, because I knew they would distract us from our task as appropriators,” McCollum said. “The provisions added by the majority do not reflect the military we have today – or honor the struggle it took to build it. These provisions divide, not unite. And they will have harmful consequences for recruitment, retention, and readiness.”

McCollum has previously said the defense spending bill is unlikely to become law with the current GOP-proposed policies in the legislation (Defense Daily, June 15). 

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) echoed McCollum’s sentiment in his remarks opposing the legislation, and cited his concern the policies could lead to a greater chance of failing to pass spending bills before the end of the fiscal year. 

“There are too many poison pills in this funding bill that just don’t have anything to do with the defense of this nation,” Ruppersberger said. “I simply cannot look past them and the damage they would cause. Our national security should not be tied up with partisan politics on either side of the aisle.”

Calvert said the GOP policies included in the bill are intended to “send a clear message to the department.”

“I know that many of you here today will be very critical of these new riders. I wish they weren’t necessary. Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Department of Defense is inappropriately using the military as a means to carry out a partisan, divisive political agenda,” Calvert said.