Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Senate Defense Panel Approves $700 Billion Defense Policy Bill

  • Bill would add 24 Lockheed F-35s to Pentagon request for 70
  • Proposed bill exceeds budget caps by about $91 billion

The Senate panel that authorizes defense expenditures has approved a $700 billion national security measure that would permit $60 billion of war spending, exceed President Donald Trump’s budget proposal and bust through budget caps.

The measure, summarized by the Senate Armed Services Committee late Wednesday after closed-door deliberations, would authorize 94 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp., 24 more than requested by the president and seven more than sought by the House Armed Services Committee.

The Senate committee also would give the Navy authority for only one Littoral Combat Ship instead of the three sought by a House panel. While the president’s budget called for one of the controversial ships, the Navy has indicated it supports adding a second of the vessels that are made in two versions by Lockheed and Austal Ltd.

The $700 billion total -- which includes defense-related programs such as the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons arsenal -- is about $61 billion more than Trump’s request for $639 billion including war-spending. It would authorize $640 billion in base defense spending, exceeding the $549 billion cap in the Budget Control Act of 2011 by $91 billion.

The measure is likely to face strong resistance from Senate Democrats, who have demanded that any increases in the cap for defense spending be matched by more funds for domestic programs. Instead, Trump has proposed paying for added defense spending through cuts in domestic programs and foreign aid.

“Equitably resolving the Budget Control Act spending caps” is “outside this committee’s jurisdiction,” Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the Armed Services panel’s top Democrat, said in the committee’s summary.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s chairman, said the bill “starts the process of rebuilding our military after six years of devastating cuts to our defense budget.”

Among its other provisions, the bill would authorize:

  • $1.6 billion to buy 17 MC-130J aircraft built by Lockheed, which is $1.2 billion and 12 aircraft more than the administration’s request.
  • $2.9 billion to procure 17 KC-46A tankers made by Boeing Co., which is $400 million and two tankers more than the request.
  • An increase of $103 million not requested by the Pentagon for Boeing to put new wings on aging A-10 Warthog close-air support combat planes. Boeing does that work at a plant in Georgia.
  • $5.5 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, which is $1.9 billion more than the administration’s request, including funds for one additional destroyer and $300 million for multiyear economic order quantity procurement.
  • $3.1 billion for advance deployment for the new Virginia-class submarine, which is $1.2 billion more than the administration’s request. The measure would also make it U.S. policy that the Navy should have at least a 355 ships, up from today’s fleet of about 275 vessels that can be deployed.

It also would take aim at reducing the Pentagon’s bureaucracy by cutting the number of deputy assistant secretaries by 20 percent and removing one assistant secretary from each military service.

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