Yesterday, the House passed its version of the FY2017 Defense Authorization bill, (H.R.4909) 277-147. In the final vote, 40 Democrats joined 237 Republicans in the affirmative, while only five Republicans along with 142 Democrats voted against passage,
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said the bill protects U.S. national security by “beginning to correct shortfalls in our military readiness, reversing troop cuts, increasing investments in training and maintenance programs, and rebuilding crumbling facilities.”
During its two-day consideration of the bill, the House considered 180 floor amendments of which 170 were approved. Earlier, the House Rules Committee struck a provision from the House Armed Services Committee-approved bill that would have required women to register for the draft.
The House bill authorizes $543.4 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program. The authorized amount for the base DoD budget would be $523.6 billion, essentially the same as the president's request.
The bill authorizes $35.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) available until April 2017. After that the new Administration would, if needed, have to request additional OCO funds for FY2017. The president's request included $58.8 billion for OCO in FY2017.
The House bill would also authorize another $23.1 billion in OCO funding to be used for base budget requirements. The administration request assumes that only $5 million of OCO funds will be used to pay for additional troops and readiness funding not included in the president’s budget request.
This approach to funding OCO caused the White House to issue a veto threat. The Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) called it “dangerous” and “wasteful.” “By gambling with warfighting funds, the bill risks the safety of our men and women fighting to keep American safe, [and] undercuts stable planning,” according to the SAP. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called the proposal a “raid on war funding that risks stability.”
The White House also takes strong issue with the bill’s restrictions on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, failure to adopt a proposal to begin another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, and rejection of reform proposals for military compensation and health care.
The House bill provides military personnel with a 2.1 percent pay raise, 0.5 percentage points higher than the administration's 1.6 percent request. The bill also would increase active duty strength by 27,000 over the president's budget request and set total Army Guard and Reserve strength levels 25,000 higher than the request.
The bill adds funding for 14 more F/A-18's, 11 F-35s, three C-130J, and two MV-22 aircraft. The bill also funds additional Army AH-64 and UH-60M helicopters and two more ships (one LCS and one DDG-51). The bill rejects the administration’s proposal to retire the A-10 fleet and replace it with F-35’s.