The House Appropriations Committee approved its $674.6 billion fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill by a 48-4 vote June 13, sending the measure to the full House for its consideration.
The bill, which the committee’s defense subcommittee endorsed June 7, would buy 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 16 more than the Department of Defense requested, and procure three Littoral Combat Ships, two more than the Navy sought (Defense Daily, June 6). It adds $623 million to the Air Force request to continue a program to replace the aging E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance plane.
The bill includes $606.5 billion in base funding, a $17.1 billion increase from FY 2018. It also contains $68.1 billion for overseas anti-terrorism operations.
The legislation would provide “robust funding for our troops, the defense programs and activities necessary to accomplish our national goals and ideals, and to continue to rebuild our military,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the committee’s chairman.
The committee adopted several amendments, including one by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) that encourages DoD to continue developing and deploying prototypes to provide dismounted soldiers with cyber-situational awareness and electronic warfare capabilities.
Another adopted amendment, by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), would require DoD to give Congress a classified report on U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Proponents say lawmakers have not received a full accounting of American involvement in the Yemen war.
At the markup, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) expressed support for replacing the Air Force’s two aging OC-135B Open Skies Treaty (OST) observation aircraft, which are assigned to Offutt Air Force Base in his state. Fortenberry noted that while the bill does not fund the Air Force’s $222 million request to buy new planes, it would require the Air Force to give lawmakers a report by Sept. 30 on its acquisition strategy for the replacement aircraft.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has urged lawmakers to provide the OST aircraft funding, saying the Air Force will be ready to proceed with the procurement in FY 2019 (Defense Daily, May 23).
It is unclear when the full House will take up the appropriations bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, is expected to take up its version of the bill the week of June 25-29.