Last week, the House passed the FY2016 DoD Appropriations bill, 278-149. The final vote included 43 Democrats voting for the bill and only 5 Republicans voting against passage.
The House bill would provide $490.2 billion for the DoD base budget (excluding military construction) and $88.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2016. The president requested $50.9 billion for OCO.
The House Appropriations Committee earlier said the House OCO funding level, including $38 billion from the base budget, is for ”preparation and operation of our forces in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, additional intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.”
The White House and many Democrats argue that including the additional base budget funding in OCO to get around defense funding caps (set in the Budget Control Act) could lead to cuts to nondefense programs and is bad defense budgeting. The White House has threatened a presidential veto of any bill that increases defense funding at the expense of nondefense programs.
House Appropriations Committee (HAC) chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the House bill “fulfills our responsibilities to properly fund programs for our warfighters, our military families, our national security, and for the success of our missions both now and in the future.”
The House bill would fund a 2.3 percent military pay raise that is authorized in the House-passed FY2016 Defense Authorization bill. The president’s budget requests a 1.3 percent pay raise for military personnel.
The bill rejects the administration’s proposal to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and restores $400 million. The bill also would deny the administration proposal to increase commissary prices to pay for operating costs and restores funding for the proposed cut.
The bill rejects DoD’s proposal to retire the A-10 Warthog aircraft and includes $453 million in the FY2016 OCO account to maintain the current A-10 force.
Procurement funding in the bill includes funds to buy 9 ships, 65 F-35 aircraft and 12 KC-46 tanker aircraft, 7 EA-18G Growlers, 5 FA-18 E/F Super Hornets, and 64 AH-64 and 102 UH-60 helicopters.
Major programs receiving R&D funding include: the new Air Force bomber; next generation JSTARS, Navy’s Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System; the Ohio-class submarine replacement; and STYKER lethality.
The House rejected a floor amendment by HAC Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-WA) that would have required Congress to vote by March 31 on an authorization to use force to combat ISIL militants. The Congress and the White House have been discussing such an authorization for months without making any progress. Meanwhile, U.S. and allied air forces continue to conduct bombing raids on ISIL forces citing a previous “war powers” authorization and the president has recently ordered an addition 450 U.S. troops to bolster training of Iraqi and other forces.
The House has now passed six of the 12 FY2016 appropriations bills (Commerce/Justice/Science, Defense, Energy and Water, Legislative, Military Construction/VA, and Transportation/HUD) and three more bills (Financial Services, Interior and Environment, and State/Foreign Operations) have cleared the House appropriations committee.
To date, the Senate has yet to consider any appropriations bill, although the DoD bill may go the Senate floor after action is completed on the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill this week. The Senate Appropriations Committee has cleared five bills for floor action (Commerce/Justice/Science, Energy and Water, Homeland Security, Legislative, and Military Construction/VA).