By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.)
The House passed the Budget Omnibus bill on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Included in the bill is funding for defense. Defense News reports that the bill will “would ramp up war spending for the first time in four years, and it includes billions for new weapon systems.” The bill allocates $572 billion to the Defense Department, of which $85.2 billion go to war funding.
“Included in the legislation is $160 billion for operation and maintenance – $13.6 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level,” explains the House Appropriations Committee in a press release. “This also includes $447 million for Cyber Command, $157 million for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, and an additional $25 million to expand the Sexual Assault Victims’ Counsel program to all the military services.”
Sexual assault was an unresolved topic that slowed the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Several different changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice were suggested. Legislation was included in the NDAA, but the debate continues.
“The bill contains $63 billion – $6.9 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – for research, development, test, and evaluation of new defense technologies,” states the press release. The White House had asked for $67.5 billion for research and development.
The legislation provides a total of $92.9 billion for procurement – $7.5 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level– for equipment and upgrades. The White House had asked for $99.3 billion.
It also “provides $9.8 billion for military construction projects – a decrease of $817 million below the enacted fiscal year 2013 level. “ The bill also includes $665.8 million for construction or alteration of Guard and Reserve facilities in 25 states.
“The bill does state the Air Force would receive $10.3 billion to buy aircraft and $4.4 billion to buy missiles, reports Defense News. “The Army would get $1.6 billion for ground vehicles, $4.8 billion for aircraft, $1.5 billion for missiles and $1.4 billion for ammunition.
“The Navy is set to get more than $16 billion for new aircraft, $15 billion for shipbuilding, $3 billion for weapons, and $549 million for ammunition. The Marine Corps would receive $1.2 billion for all of its procurement accounts.”
The Senate Appropriation committee highlights the following as significant appropriations:
Full funding for 29 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and a production ramp to 39 aircraft in 2015. Under a full-year CR, DoD would be forced to procure fewer than the 29 aircraft in the president’s request.
Full funding for the Air Force CV-22 Osprey and C-130J Hercules. Also provides approval of the C-130J multi-year procurement contract which will result in at least 10 percent savings on aircraft purchases compared to single-year buys.
Protection of the procurement quantities for Army CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Under full sequestration, the Army would be forced to procure as many as 15 fewer helicopters. The bill also provides an additional four UH-60 Black Hawk and ten UH-72 Lakota helicopters for the Army National Guard.
Full funding for Navy EA-18G Growlers, P-8 Poseidons, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, MV-22 Ospreys, MH-60S/R helicopters, and Joint Primary Aircraft Training System aircraft. Also adds $75 million for advance procurement of additional F/A-18E/F Navy fighter aircraft, and multi-year procurement authority for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, which will result in significant cost
Full support of the Navy’s shipbuilding plan by providing for new construction of eight ships, as requested, and ensuring that construction schedules will remain intact. Under a full-year CR, new aircraft carrier construction and renovations would be delayed, funding would be provided for the construction of the wrong types of ships, and there would be a $700 million shortfall for the construction of new ships. Under the agreement, each of these problems is corrected.
Full funding the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) and modifications for Special Operations Forces, neither of which would be funded under a full-year CR.
$90 million for the M1 Abrams tank program to maintain the industrial base for future tank production. Also adds $45 million for the conversion of Stryker vehicles to the protective double “V” hull configuration for improved crew safety and survival.
$70 million to fully fund the requirement for Radar Digital Processors, a key element of upgrading the Patriot Missile Defense system and maximizing the capability of the MSE missile.
Full funding of rocket motors for the Trident II (D5) missile program, $32.9 million more than a full-year CR, supporting a critical component of our strategic deterrent.
“The bill includes $10.2 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard – a decrease of $211 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level and $463 million above the president’s request,” stated the House press release. “Targeted increases are provided for: cutter and aviation operating hours, training, and maintenance; acquisition of the seventh National Security Cutter (NSC) and long-lead time material for the eighth NSC; six Fast Response Cutter (FRC) patrol boats; an additional C-130J aircraft; and urgently needed upgrades to family housing. The bill also allows the Coast Guard to receive a transfer of 14 C-27J maritime patrol aircraft from the Air Force. ”The bill sustains military pay and allowances for Coast Guard personnel.
While the House claims that overseas contingency operations (OCO) spending went down by $2 billion, Defense News analysis suggests that the omnibus actually included an additional $5 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO) above what the White House had requested. To align with the Budget Control Act, it appears that Congress shifted dollars from the basic budget to OCO funding. OCO funding can be used for weapon procurement to help reset the force and is outside the sequestration restrictions. Examples include funding for the procurement of Army AH-64 Apache helicopters, CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and upgrades to OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
The National Guard and Reserve receive “$1 billion for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account to ensure Guard and Reserve units have the critical, dual-use equipment necessary for both homeland security and overseas missions,” according to the Senate Appropriations summary of the bill.
The bill provides $40 million to equip six Air National Guard squadrons for unmanned aerial vehicle operations, including the outfitting of operations centers and supporting units.”
An appropriation of $13 million for Beyond Yellow Ribbon initiatives, such as National Guard and Reserve outreach and reintegration activities, employment enhancement programs and peer-to-peer hotline services for mental health and suicide prevention efforts, was included.
The bill also includes $23 billion for Defense readiness funds, which is intended to reduce the bite of sequestration. It also permits the Pentagon to sign multi-year contracts with industry and defense vendors.
ROA supports the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) fixes that were included in the bill, returning military disability retirees and surviving spouses to the full COLA rates. The Free Beacon reports that the COLA fix only covers 17.5 percent of military retirees.
At least 15 other bills have been introduced to provide budget offsets that will cover the costs of restoring COLA for other military retirees. Federal Times reports that the bill also “gives a 1 percent pay raise to more than 200,000 blue-collar federal workers at military depots and other facilities.”
“The bill also contains $32.7 billion – the same as the fiscal year 2013 enacted level – for the Defense Health Program to provide care for our troops, military families, and retirees,” reports the House Appropriations Committee. This includes a “$218 million increase for TRICARE to ensure service members are not paying higher out-of-pocket costs for their health care,” reports the Senate committee.
Current funding ran out on Wednesday. Congress passed a 3-day continuing resolution to fund the federal government, permitting the Senate some time to review the omnibus bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the budget legislation before the end of the week.