The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 Wednesday night, authorizing $29 billion above the Trump administration’s base budget request.

The SASC voted unanimously to markup a $632 billion base defense budget that is also $18 billion more than the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) version. This markup authorizes an Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) level of $60 billion that, combined with defense-related activities not in the NDAA, brings total defense spending up to $700 billion.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee

In comparison, the administration requested $603 billion for the defense base budget. The SASC executive summary highlighted that while that request was a step in the right direction to increase funding, it is “insufficient to undo the damage of the last six years,” referring to the Budget Control Act (BCA). The panel noted the military services sent over $30 billion in unfunded priorities lists which indicated the need for funding higher than the president’s request.

The committee said that ultimately Congress must repeal or revise the BCA so that the military can get the funding it needs and urged the full legislature to do so.

Committee staffers told reporters at a briefing that the markup’s value over the BCA caps will hopefully help to influence discussion on changing the law.

SASC authorized $10.6 billion to procure 94 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, $3.1 billion and 24 more aircraft than the administration requested. This is split between $6.3 billion for 60 F-35As, $1.8 billion and 14 more units than requested; $2.9 billion for 24 F-35B fighters, $526 million and four aircraft over the request; and $1.4 billion for 10 F-35Cs, $800 million and 6 aircraft over the request.

The bill included $1.2 billion for procuring a fleet of Light Attack/Observation aircraft, which refers to the Capability Assessment of Non-Developmental Light Attack Platforms, OA-X. SASC staff told reporters during a briefing that the idea is to move the program along and help progress it by authorizing this funding. The bill does not dictate timing for procurement, but the funding lasts for three years, staffers said.

The Air Force plans to have industry demonstrate its offerings in August (Defense Daily, May 15). Senate staffers said this procurement item is in line with a white paper McCain released last year calling on the service to procure 300 of these units that can conduct counterterrorism operations, close air support, and other missions in permissive environments.

For the Army, the NDAA authorizes $3 billion for Army helicopters. This includes $1.4 billion for 74 AH-64E Apaches, $1.1 billion for 84 UH-60 Blackhawks, $203 million for 6 CH-47F Chinooks, $247 million for 4 MH-47G Chinooks, and $108 million for 13 Light Utility Helicopters.

It calls for $2.2 billion in Army ground combat vehicles which includes $1.3 billion for M1 Abrams tanks, $793 million for Stryker armored combat vehicles, $111 million for Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and $41 million for Ground Mobility Vehicles. The bill also authorizes $133 million for Active Protection System development. and $103 million for development of a ground combat vehicle prototype. The bill also requires the Army to report how it will develop the prototype.

For naval shipbuilding, the bill authorizes $25 billion to fund 13 ships. This is five ships and $5 billion over the administration request. This matched the general HASC NDAA numbers which also authorized five more ships. The Senate version includes $5.5 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, $1.9 billion over the request and it includes funds for one more destroyer and $300 million for multiyear economic order quantity procurement.

The committee reduced perpetual complaint item Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and its mission modules by $94 million while also procuring only one LCS. Staffers told reporters the committee found acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley’s testimony last month before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee “compelling.” There, he said one LCS in FY ’18 was the minimum needed to sustain the industrial base.

The administration originally put one LCS in the budget request but a day later said it was supportive of a second ship (Defense Daily, May 24).

Separately, Navy shipbuilding includes $3.1 billion for Virginia­-class attack submarine advance procurement. This is $1.2 billion over the administration request and includes $750 million for multiyear economic order quantity procurement and $450 million for either a third FY 2020 Virginia submarine or other initiatives to expand the submarine industrial base.

SASC matched a HASC NDAA provision (Defense Daily, June 22), authorizing multiyear contract authority and advance procurement for up to 13 Virginia-class submarines and 15 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Likewise, it also codifies it is U.S. policy for the Navy to reach a 355 ship fleet.

The funding includes $1 billion and incremental funding authority for either one amphibious ship replacement (LX(R)) or one amphibious transport dock (LPD-30), which goes beyond the administration’s request.

Other additions to the Navy request include $661 million for one expeditionary sea base (ESB); $250 million for one cable ship; and $297 million more for $509 million in eight ship-to-shore connectors (SSCs), five more than the request.

For naval aircraft, the Senate NDAA still added nearly $2 billion over the DoD request. It authorizes $1.9 billion to procure 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, $379 million and 10 more aircraft than requested. It also authorizes $2.3 billion to procure 13 P-8A Poseidons, a full $1 billion and 6 more aircraft than requested.

However, the NDAA reduced the delayed and over budget Ford-class aircraft carriers by $300 million while establishing a $12 billion procurement cost limitation for carriers after the second ship of the class, the John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).

Staffers also highlighted that the SASC transferred $4.6 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) from the administration’s OCO request to the base budget. The EDI aims to reverse reductions in U.S. combat capability in Europe to deter Russian aggression.

The bill’s summary notes the EDI was only able to be added to the defense budget in the 2015 NDAA in the OCO account “due to arbitrary budget caps in the Budget Control Act.” The committee now says this funding does not properly belong in the OCO account and should be transferred to base budget.

Staffers said the HASC NDAA moved this funding too but then added additional items to the OCO. This made the HASC OCO $65 billion compared to the SASC $60 billion.

Committee staffers said the full text of the Senate NDAA should be completed the week that Congress returns from its July 4th recess, which is the week of July 10. The committee included 277 amendments, so the staffers will be doing the administrative work of putting all of the provisions together into the bill.