The House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on May 19 released its draft of the appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016. While the draft is in line with the House defense authorization bill that was approved last week, it diverges notably in funding for extra fighter jets and electronic warfare planes for the services.
The bill contains $578.6 billion in discretionary funding, with $88.4 billion designated for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account that pays for wartime expenses. Like the House’s National Defense Authorization Act, the draft appropriations bill would transfer base budget expenses into OCO to bypass congressionally mandated spending caps, a move that some Democrats and fiscal hawks have decried as a “budget gimmick.”
“This bill makes the most of a very tight budget, utilizing all resources to ensure that our military remains the best in the world, and that they are ready and able to protect all of us from those that wish to do harm,” Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a news release.
The draft bill would appropriate $84.4 billion for 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, eight more than the amount requested in the president’s budget and two more than authorized in the House bill. However, only 36 of the Air Force’s 44 jets will receive funding until the Defense Secretary certifies that the F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System—which facilitates functions such as maintenance, diagnostics, and ordering spare parts for the plane—meets the requirements to support Air Force’s initial operational capability, according to a provision in the legislation.
Unlike the House authorization act, which set aside funding for 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, defense appropriators opted to buy a mix of Super Hornets and the electronic warfare variant, the E/A-18G Growler. The appropriations bill includes $700 million for seven Growlers and $350 million for five Super Hornets.
It also contains language blocking two unpopular measures the military services want to take to save money: the retirement of the A-10 Warthog—an Air Force plane used for close air support of troops on the ground—and the transfer of Army National Guard AH-64 Apache helicopters to the active Army, where they would be used to support reconnaissance missions.
If passed, the bill would appropriate a total $16.9 billion to procure nine Navy ships, including $1.3 billion for three Littoral Combat Ships, $3.3 billion for two Virginia-class submarines, about $3 billion for two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, and $674 billion for a new oiler. It also contains funding to top off procurement spending needed for LPD-28, a bridge vessel that will lead into the purchase of the of the first LX(R) amphibious ship.
The legislative language made public today did not contain item-by-item funding for most weapon systems, however the summary released along with the bill revealed that subcommittee appropriators hewed closely to the president’s budget request and House authorization. The draft bill contains $1.2 billion for 64 AH-64 helicopters and $1.6 billion for 102 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. It includes $315 million for lethality upgrades to the Army’s Stryker wheeled vehicle. It sets aside $3 billion for 16 P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft for the Navy and $2.3 billion for 12 KC-46 tankers for the Air Force. About $55 million would go toward Israeli Cooperative Program Iron Dome.
The bill would appropriate $67.9 billion in research and development funding for programs like the Air Force’s long range strike bomber and next-generation Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft, the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial system , future unmanned carrier launched UAS and Ohio-class submarine replacement, and the F-35.