2017 defense bill advances

The House Appropriations Committee has introduced the final $578 billion defense spending bill for the remainder of FY2017. It's an $11 billion increase over 2016, but far short of what defense hawks say is needed going forward.

Shutterstock image: weapons tech design
 

Congress is inching closer to writing a $578 billion check to the Department of Defense for its fiscal year 2017 budget, as the House Appropriations Committee has introduced the final 2017 Defense Appropriations bill.

The funding measure will go to the House floor the week of March 6. The total amount includes $516 billion in baseline spending and $61.8 billion in Overseas Contingency Operation funds. Of the $578 total, $72.7 billion will go to R&D and $117.8 billion to procurement.

On top of that, the DOD also will receive $5.8 billion in supplemental funding from the continuing resolution passed in December 2016. The total funding of $583 billion follows the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that was also signed into law late in 2016.

"This legislation provides responsible funding to ensure that our troops have the resources they need to remain the very best in the world, and to fulfill the mission of protecting our country and our way of life," said appropriations committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) in a statement announcing introduction of the bill.

Many members of Congress and Trump administration officials, however, say that level of funding is far from what is needed to rebuild the military -- both in terms of readiness and updating and replacing equipment. Congress also is still waiting on a 2017 supplemental funding request from the Trump administration.

The administration recently released its estimate for the 2018 defense budget, which received a mixed reaction on the Hill. The administration is calling for a $603 billion budget, which falls well short of the $640 billion Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) say is needed for 2018.

"After years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, I am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history," President Donald Trump said during his March 2 speech aboard the U.S.S. Gerald Ford.

"Our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed on our defense," said Trump, who decried the current size of the Navy and the high numbers of aircraft requiring maintenance.

The Trump budget proposal, while a significant increase over the Budget Control Act cap for FY 2018, is only 3 percent above what the Obama administration had proposed.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Thornberry told reporters on March 1 that the Trump administration will have to make tough choices about what readiness shortfalls it will chose not to address if it sticks to the $603 billion proposal.

"I have no doubt that [the president] wants to rebuild the military," said Thornberry. "Part of what we're trying to help is give a little more detail on what that takes and what that means."

"This is an ongoing conversation that will undoubtedly continue," he said.

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