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Top Defense Programs Unscathed In $669 Billion Spending Bill

Posted by Carlo Munoz on

UPDATED CAPITOL HILL: The $669 billion set aside by defense lawmakers for fiscal 2012 is $24 billion short of the White House’s initial request but will be enough to finance several of the Pentagon’s high-profile programs.

The Pentagon will get $554 billion in its baseline budget and $115.5 billion to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the upcoming fiscal year, according to a compromise version of the fiscal 2012 defense spending bill approved late Monday night. The White House originally wanted $693 billion for the Pentagon. The spending levels in the bicameral bill also include reductions mandated in the Budget Control Act passed earlier this year. The full House approved the bill late Wednesday night. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote today. President Obama has also abandoned threats to veto the bill over language regarding military detainees. The White House had been adamant that suspected terrorists captured by the United States should be tried in criminal, not military, courts.

Aside from the detainee issue, the bill set to hit the president’s desk will include $8.5 billion to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. JSF funds were included despite efforts by Senate Armed Services Ranking Member John McCain to cut F-35 money in the bill, he said at the same Hill briefing.

Aside from JSF, the legislation will finance Osprey procurements for the Air Force and Marines to the tune of $2.43 billion. Defense lawmakers also opted to funnel $3.2 billion into Navy coffers for additional F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA/18G electronic warfare fighters. But it also clears the way for the Air Force to scrap six of its legacy B-1 bombers from the fleet, according to the bill. Defense lawmakers also directed the Pentagon to begin “a competitive acquisition strategy” to build the future jet engine that will power the Air Force’s next generation bomber.

On the sea side, defense lawmakers set aside $14.9 billion for 10 new Navy ships but demanded a new “cost benefit analysis” on maintenance costs for the Littoral Combat Ship.
The bill also approves a one year extension on the Navy’s aircraft carrier financing plan. That extension would only apply to the third and fourth Ford-class ship, the summary states. The bill also directs the Navy “to maintain an aircraft carrier air-wing force structure and associated command structure commensurate to effectively support aircraft carrier force structure requirements.” Lawmakers also want Navy and Pentagon officials to make their case — in writing — to the defense committees for the new Ohio-class replacement submarine, according to the bill summary.

On the ground side, Defense legislators set aside $449 million for the Army’s next-generation Ground Combat vehicle and $255 million to revamp the service’s Abrams combat tank. Also tucked away in the defense spending bill is $5.1 billion for Army and Marine Corps tactical wheeled vehicle programs. Of that amount, $2.7 will go toward modernizing the services’ fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, according to the bill summary.

Defense lawmakers were forced to retool their original fiscal 2012 defense spending plan to comply with the White House’s deficit reduction strategy. That plan has the Pentagon trimming roughly $450 billion over the next decade. That number is expected to hit the $1 trillion mark due to the recent failure of the congressional Super Committee. The administration tasked the committee with cutting $1.2 billion in government spending across the board. Their failure triggered an additional $500 billion in defense cuts. Those cuts, set to go into effect in fiscal 2013, are on top of the initial $450 billion in reductions already approved.

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