The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s draft mark for the FY ’19 defense authorization bill largely fell in line with what the subcommittees approved in their markups last week, but it added a few specific funding details in various programs.
Chairman Mac Thorneberry’s (R-Texas) mark agrees with a subcommittee provision mandating the Air Force continue the JSTARS recapitalization aircraft development program, but also authorizes $623 million for it over the administration’s FY ’19 request (Defense Daily, April 25).
It also added some specific provisions and funds for Navy programs that the seapower subcommittee previously recommended. It agrees that the Navy should be authorized to build 13 ships, rather than the 10 requested for FY ’19; authorizes accelerated construction of the fourth Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier CVN-81 because it “accelerates the next Ford-class aircraft carrier to close the carrier gap in the Gulf;” and requires the Navy to incorporate the MQ-25 unmanned tanker aircraft on to the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
Staffers said CVN-73 was chosen because there are a limited number of carriers to choose from and it is useful to put this new piece of equipment on more ships to expand its utility. This affirms an amendment added to the seapower subcommittee’s markup by Rep. Don McEachin (D-Va.) to ensure CVN-73 is modified to support the MQ-25 before it completes its next Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) (Defense Daily, April 26).
The chairman’s mark provides $1 billion for long-lead material in FY ’19 for additional Virginia-class submarines in FY ’22 and FY ’23, adding a number to the subcommittee recommendation. It also provides additional unspecified funds for long-lead material and multi-year procurement contract authority for LPD Flight II San Antonio-class amphibious dock transport ships.
Last month the Navy announced it selected Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] to build the LX(R) amphibious transport dock replacement with the Flight II ships (Defense Daily, April 12).
The mark authorizes multiyear procurement authority for several other major programs: F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets, C-130 Super Hercules, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, and 625 Standard Missile-6 missiles. It also adds $100 million in spare parts for the F-35 aircraft.
The chairman’s draft maintains much of the administration’s FY ’19 funding requests for aircraft but adds $50 million for the Army MQ-1 Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), $105 million for the EQ-4 UAS, $85 million for additional UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Army National Guard, and $65 million for the A-10 wing replacement program.
It also would authorize $360 million, for Stryker A1 combat vehicles, a boost of $338 million over the request.
It noted additional unspecific funding over the administration request for Paladin vehicles, F-15 aircraft upgrades, the Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-185C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, Raytheon [RTN] Tomahawk missiles, Lockheed Martin MK-48 heavyweight torpedoes, sonobuoys, and other various unfunded requirements for munitions.
It provides additional funding to maintain maximum production rate of munitions like the small diameter bombs, Boeing [BA] Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).
The bill adds funding on several strategic forces and missile defense systems. This includes $150 million to accelerate efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability in FY ’22 in response to Russian and Chinese weapon advances; $140 million to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to develop directed energy, space sensing projects, and accelerate hypersonic defenses; $175 million to accelerate integrating Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles to meet the requirements of the Commander of U.S. Forces Korea; and undisclosed funding to address cyber threats to missile defense systems.
The mark also strengthens congressional notification and approval for use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA) for award of follow-on production contracts. This is meant ”to increase the prudent use of OTAs while maintaining the flexibility and agility of these tools,” the mark summary said.
Staffers noted OTA can be useful sometimes, but not others and the chairman wants to make sure it is used well.
Notably, the bill moves the European Defense Initiative (EDI)-related request for wartime material from the Overseas Continegency Operations (OCO) account into the base budget “to encourage futher such requests to be included in the base budget,” the chairman’s summary said. EDI funding itself remains at the level requested, $6.3 billion.
The chairman’s mark would also rename the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Staffers said this is in line with administration policy like the National Defense Strategy and acknowledges a larger U.S.-China strategy involving the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They said this is more a recognition of reality because India is already within PACOM’s area of operations.
Staffers highlighted the bill’s attempts to reinforce partnerships in the Middle East by establishing a “Defense Partnership to Counter Iran,” which would extend the authority for the Counter-ISIS fund.