The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) approved (56Y-5N) the FY2013 Defense Authorization Bill.  The HASC bill authorizes $554 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) funding for the nuclear weapons program, almost $4 billion more than the president requested.  The bill also authorizes $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2013, the requested amount

In a press statement announcing the vote, the committee said the increased funding provided in the bill reflects concern that DoD has “absorbed 50% of deficit reduction efforts to date, though it comprises only 20% of the federal budget.”

According to the press statement, the HASC bill approves the 1.7 percent military pay raise proposed by the president. The bill provides for a small increase in the TRICARE pharmacy co-pay, but caps future increases at no more than the cost-of-living adjustment.  The bill also includes a five-year pilot program that requires TRICARE for life participants to get maintenance drug refills through the mail-order program.  However, the HASC rejected other TRICARE fee increases and new fees proposed by the administration.  According to the committee, “these proposals went too far.”

The HASC did not include language authorizing two additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) rounds proposed by the president.  Reflecting a strong anti-BRAC sentiment in Congress (heightened because it is an election year), the committee accepted an amendment that would prohibit spending any funds in FY2013 to plan or execute the BRAC process.

The HASC bill also rejects an administration plan to retire 18 Air Force Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs and would retain three of the four Navy cruisers requested for early retirement.  According to the committee, these systems are necessary to maintain U.S. combat power.  

The HASC would provide “temporary” relief from maintaining at least 301 strategic airlift aircraft.  However, it would require a report that assesses the risk to combat commanders’ airlift requirements with less than 301 aircraft.

The committee does support much of the administration’s request for major weapons programs.  The bill recommends funding for 50 AH-64, 59 UH-60, and 44 CH-47 helicopters, 29 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter), 26 F-18 E/F, V-22 aircraft, and 36 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  It also would fund multiyear procurement for up to 10 Virginia-Class submarines and 10 DDG-51 destroyers.

In a move that reflects some continuing congressional discomfort with the end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding gays serving openly in the military, the HASC approved (37Y-24N) an amendment prohibiting the performance of same sex marriages on U.S. military bases.

The full House is expected to begin consideration of the bill next week.