By Emelie Rutherford
The House was poised last night to pass a continuing resolution that would fund the Pentagon for the next 10 months largely at current levels, though the legislation faces opposition in the Senate.
House Democrats, during their final weeks of having a majority in the chamber, were advocating for passage of the 10-month resolution during floor debate yesterday afternoon. The measure would approve the Navy’s new plan for buying Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) and could potentially continue the General Electric [GE]-Rolls- Royce second alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The resolution would continue funding all of the federal government for fiscal year 2011, which ends next Sept. 30. The Department of Defense and other agencies have been temporarily funded since FY ’11 began on Oct. 1 by multiple short-term continuing resolutions, the most-recent of which will expire Dec. 18.
Overall, the 10-month continuing resolution would grant $513 billion for the Pentagon, which is $4.9 billion above FY ’10 levels. The added money–most of which would go to military pay, health, education, and facilities–includes $205 million for the Iron Dome Israeli missile-defense program. The resolution would reduce other government appropriations, including for military construction and veterans, by $4.9 billion compared to FY ’10. The measure contains $159 billion in war funding, the amount President Barack Obama requested.
However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) objects to funding the government in FY ’11 with such a continuing resolution. He has prepared omnibus legislation containing all of the 12 appropriations bills for FY ’11, though some Senate Republicans are opposed to his plan.
The House resolution, meanwhile, would give the Pentagon “broad authority to realign funding to accommodate programs and projects planned for FY 2011, including new program starts, significant changes in program emphasis or quantities, and programs not funded in FY 2010 that are planned to resume in FY 2011,” according to a House Appropriations Committee summary. “Funding realignment requires Congressional approval,” it adds.
Supporters of the F-35 alternate engine said they believe the 423-page House resolution, if passed by both chambers of Congress, would keep the program funded. Obama wants to stop developing the engine, which Congress has consistently funded in recent years over Pentagon objections.
However, the resolution does not specifically say the alternate engine should be funded. The FY ’10 budget includes $465 million for it. The White House appears to have procedural ways to block funding for the engine, observers said.
The House’s continuing resolution also would grant the Navy approval to change its acquisition strategy for the LCS and buy 20 such vessels. The service has been scrambling over the past month to get Congress’ OK to buy 20 LCSs from both companies competing to build them, instead of selecting just one design and building 10 of them. The Navy has tried to secure the approval by Dec. 14, the day ship bids from a Lockheed Martin [LMT]-Marinette Marine team and Austal USA have been due to expire.