House defense bill boosts spending on fighter jets, ships

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 18:13:56-04

The House’s defense authorization bill includes a major $21 billion boost to buy more weapons for the Pentagon, allocating major funding upgrades to F-35 and F/A-18 fighter jets and Navy shipbuilding programs.

But the bill is slightly smaller than House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry would have liked, as his draft version of the National Defense Authorization Act appears to comply with an emerging House budget deal.

The House Budget Committee is currently considering proposing a budget with a $621 billion topline for defense, which is more than the $603 billion President Donald Trump proposed, but less than the $640 billion Thornberry was seeking. The draft defense authorization bill also is set at $621 billion in base budget funding, according to a copy obtained by CNN, along with $75 billion in war funding, for a total of $696 billion.

Thornberry had told reporters Thursday he was planning to move forward with a $705 billion defense authorization bill, made up of a $640 billion base budget and $65 billion in war funding. But the Texas Republican added that it could change if a compromise was reached, and Thornberry agreed to move forward with the budget committee numbers, according to three sources familiar with the legislation.

The defense authorization bill sets Pentagon policy and authorizes spending, while the appropriations committee allocates funding. The House appropriations defense subcommittee is marking up its bill, which is slightly narrower in scope, to $640 billion, with a $549 billion base budget and $91 billion in war funding.

The House’s bill is also now likely to diverge slightly from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s plan. McCain is also planning to mark up a $700 billion defense authorization bill with a $640 billion base budget and $60 billion in war funding. McCain’s bill shifts $5 billion in funds for European deterrence into the base budget, according to a source familiar with his plans.

Even with a slightly smaller topline, Thornberry’s bill would provide the Pentagon with $27 billion more than what the Trump administration was seeking. It would authorize a major boost to procurement, which the Texas Republican has said is needed to replace aging equipment for the military — but which also is a boon to US defense contractors.

The draft bill includes a $6 billion boost to shipbuilding funding, including authorizing an extra $1 billion for the Littoral Combat Ship program, $1.9 billion for the DDG-51 destroyer and $1.8 billion for the LPD-17.

The bill would authorize an additional $2.2 billion for more Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighter jets, including additional Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps versions of the fighter.

And the measure would authorize an extra $600 million to allow the Navy to buy more Boeing-built F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The measure would also include an extra $103 million to pay for new wings for A-10 Warthog attack jets, extending their service life.

It includes an extra $290 million for UH-60 Army Black Hawk helicopters and $355 million for CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

The bill also would provide a major boost to missile defense, with $319 million to procure new THAAD missile interceptors and $158 million for additional SM-3 block 1B interceptors.