By Emelie Rutherford
The House passed, 395-34, a $636.3 billion defense spending bill for fiscal year 2010 yesterday that continues programs the Pentagon does not want including the F-35 alternate engine.
Because the Senate’s plans for granting final congressional approval to the delayed appropriations legislation were not clear, the House also passed and sent to the Senate a resolution temporary extending the Defense Department’s budget at FY ’09 levels until Dec. 23. A similar “continuing resolution,” which has been in play since FY ’10 began Oct. 1, expires tomorrow.
As of press time yesterday, Senate Democrats were working to receive Republican approval to set aside the healthcare-reform debate and vote on the defense legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was poised to file a cloture motion on the bill, a move that would set up a procedural vote no later than Friday followed by a subsequent vote on final passage, potentially on Saturday.
House Appropriations Defense subcommittee (HAC-D) Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) returned to the House floor yesterday, following a recent illness, to tout the defense plan.
“This is as good a bill as we could come up with, with the amount of money that was apportioned to us,” Murtha said.
The appropriations measure totals $636.3 billion, just shy of the $640.1 billion President Barack Obama requested.
Obama is not expected to veto the legislation, even though it includes $465 million in unrequested funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s second engine, developed by General Electric [GE] and Rolls-Royce.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the White House’s Office of Management in letters to lawmakers have objected to continuing the second-engine effort and said Obama would be advised to veto legislation that would “seriously disrupt” the overall F-35 program. Yet Obama on Oct. 28 signed the FY ’10 defense authorization bill, which sets policy and similarly included $560 million for the F-35 alternate engine.
The appropriations measure the House passed yesterday also continues Boeing‘s [BA] C-17 cargo aircraft program, which the Pentagon sought to end at the 205 already funded.
The final bill, which House and Senate appropriators hashed out in private last Friday, includes $2.5 billion for buying the 10 C-17s that were in the version of the legislation that passed the Senate on Oct. 6. The bill that cleared the House on July 30 funded three C-17s.
The administration did not threaten to veto the appropriations measure over the C-17s, but did suggest a veto could result if $485 million in the House-passed bill for Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] VH-71 presidential helicopter program remained in the final version.
House-Senate negotiators dropped that funding from the final bill, but opted to add $45 million the administration did not seek to recoup research and development investments already made in the VH-71 effort. The $485 million in thwarted monies would have missionized choppers already build for the canceled program.
Obama and Gates won a major victory in the appropriations bill because it ends the Pentagon’s buy of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 stealth fighter at 187 aircraft. The duo successfully killed legislative attempts to further extend the production line.
However, the final bill retains a provision from the previous Senate legislation that could make it easier for Japan or another foreign nation to buy an exportable version of the F-22. Current law bans foreign F-22 sales. The final bill says the Pentagon “may conduct or participate in studies, research, design and other activities to define and develop a future export version of the F-22A that protects classified and sensitive information, technologies and U.S. warfighting capabilities.”
A report accompanying the final legislation addresses the hotly contested Air Force refueling tanker competition between Boeing and a Northrop Grumman [NOC]- European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) team.
The report says Air Force Secretary Michael Donley is “encouraged” to buy 36 tankers a year, instead of the 12 to 15 aircraft planned. Murtha has supported buying tankers from both manufacturers, in order to meet this accelerated production rate and to avoid further contract delays.
The language also directs Donley to submit a report to lawmakers 10 days after the release of the tanker request for proposals (RFP) describing changes that were made to the draft version of the RFP and reflected in the final document.
Overall, the $636.3 billion defense appropriations measure passed yesterday includes $104.4 billion for procurement, $816 million less than the administration requested, and $80.5 billion for research and development, and $1.9 billion above the request.
Additions to the administration’s request include: funding for nine additional F/A-18E/F Super Hornet tactical aircraft, lifting the total buy to 18 copies; monies to buy three instead of two E-2D Hawkeyes; $46 million in added funding for re-engineering research and development of the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft; and $15 billion, $120 million more than requested, for buying seven Navy ships.
Reductions from the White House’s proposal include: $25 million less for Stryker combat vehicles than requested in the base bill; $330 million below the request for the Army’s restructured Future Combat Systems program; and $97.4 million under the requested amount for the Global Positioning System III operational control segment (OCX).
The defense appropriations bill for the first time in recent years includes funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it includes $128.3 billion, just shy of the administration’s $130 billion request. Still, lawmakers plan to consider additional FY’ 10 war monies early next year.
The House-passed bill boosts the equipment and force structure portion of White House’s war request by $1.71 billion. That increase supports: $6.3 billion, $825 million more than requested, for buying Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles; $1.1 billion, $187 above the request, for procuring Humvees; $863 million, $577 million more than proposed, for buying the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles; and $803 million, $180 million above the request, for the procurement of Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles.
The war funding in the House measure includes $80 million for the procurement of MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, a reduction of $170 million from the administration’s request because of excess capacity.
The House planned to adjourn for the year last night.