By Laicie Heeley, Kingston Reif and Brenna Gautam
On June 10, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Fiscal Year FY) 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill, which includes $571 billion in total funding. Although this is an increase from the 2015 requested budget amount, it reflects an overall $1.7 billion decrease in funding from the enacted Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) amount. Within that amount, Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding accounts for nearly 14%, totaling $79.4 billion. This is the same level allocated in both the President’s FY15 budget request, but remains a placeholder until the administration provides a detailed request.
Notably, current funding the OCO account does not reflect the end of the US combat mission in Afghanistan. For this and other reasons, the House has stated that funding will require “further evaluation.” This is to be expected, given the lack of an official budget request. The White House, for its part, has said that it is currently working on “finalizing” an official request for OCO funds, but has yet to indicate when it will arrive.
The committee supported the retirement of the A-10 Warthog aircraft. By a vote of 23-13, the committee defeated an amendment introduced by U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) that sought to preserve funding for the U.S. fleet of A-10 aircraft. While the Pentagon proposed to eliminate all 283 of the jets, the amendment would have transferred $339.3 million from Operations and Maintenance funds to sustain A-10 aircraft operations. The House Appropriation Committee action marks the first congressional endorsement of the service’s cost-cutting A-10 retirement plan, since both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA restored funding for the A-10. The Pentagon says that the cancellation would save $3.7 billion over the next five years, plus $500 million in planned upgrades that could be forgone.
The bill includes a $171 million cut to the Research and Development account below the President’s request of $63.4 billion. The account, however, includes full funding for the development of the new Air Force bomber program and the restoration of one Ohio-class submarine training exercise. Overall, the committee approved $1.29 billion for continued development of the replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, reflecting no change from the budget request. The bill cuts $5 million from the $198 million request for the B-61 bomb tail kit assembly and $1.5 million from the $4.9 million request for the program to develop a new nuclear armed cruise missile.
The Research and Development account also includes funding for the Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System, Army Ground Combat Vehicle, and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Notable changes from the Administration’s request include an increase in funding for the Lockheed F-35 fighter jet. The bill calls for four new F-35s, bringing the number from 34 to 38. Included within that request is approximately $15 million to to pay for providing the plane with a nuclear capability. The panel also shifted $789 million to fund refueling of the USS George Washington carrier to maintain an 11-aircraft carrier fleet, and provided $1.6 billion for the KC-46A aerial tanker program. Further, the bill would provide $975 million in unrequested funding for 12 EA-18 Growler electronic warfare aircraft and $125 million to support the procurement of an additional unrequested P8-A Poseidon aircraft.
Additionally, the committee would provide more than $175 million in unrequested funding for procurement and $172 million for development of the Iron Dome missile defense program. This is in addition to a $43 million increase for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.
The bill provides $365 million in funding for the Cooperative Threat Reduction Account, a program charged with implementing non-proliferation programs and facilitating in the elimination and security of nuclear and chemical weapons. This is the same amount as was requested in the President’s 2015 Budget Request, but reflects a $135 million decrease, or 27% from the FY 2014 enacted amount.
The bill also attempts to propose reforms to the program response to alleged drug use, test cheating, and general poor morale of ICBM crewmembers. The committee added an additional $21.6 million to Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding with the stated purpose of “directly improving quality of life and morale of the ICBM crews.” Further, the bill prohibits the use of funds to reduce, convert, decommission or move to non-deployed status any ICBM silo that contains a deployed missile.
Panel Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) noted in his summary that the bill contains “an additional $1.2 billion to fill readiness shortfalls, [and] $721 million to restore unrealistic reductions in the president’s request to facility sustainment and modernization,” to address concerns over military readiness created by sequestration. It is still unclear which programs this additional $1.2 billion will fund.
The Defense Appropriations Bill is expected on the House floor this week.