Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved its version of the FY2013 Defense Authorization bill.

According to the committee press release, the SASC bill authorizes $543 billion:  $525.3 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) base budget and $17.8 billion for the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program.  The bill would also authorize $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO) in FY2013. 

The annual Defense Authorization bill authorizes force levels, programs, and policies (including military pay raises) for DoD budgets.  Appropriations bills provide actual funding (appropriations) for DoD.

Both SASC chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) highlighted the bipartisan support for the bill evidenced by its unanimous approval by the committee.  “The committee has approved a bill that maintains a strong, flexible national defense, and also exercises careful stewardship of taxpayer dollars, remaining within the topline of the president’s budget request,” Levin said.

The SASC bill’s funding level is about $4 billion less that the authorized funding level provided in the House-passed bill.  The House bill also includes $88.5 billion for OCO.

The SASC bill approves the 1.7 percent military pay raise proposed by the president and approved in the House bill.  The committee, agreeing with the House, rejects the administration’s proposal to set enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard and TRICARE for Life, but would allow a small increase in the TRICARE pharmacy co-pay. 

The SASC bill would establish a “Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission” to evaluate the “sustainability of the compensation and retirement systems” to ensure the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force.  However, the committee stresses that any proposals should “grandfather” current servicemembers and retirees.

Like the House, the SASC bill does not authorize any funding to implement additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).  However, in sharp disagreement with the House, the SASC bill would approve the administration’s proposal to retire 18 Air Force Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs and would not authorize funding an East Coast missile defense site.

The SASC bill supports the budget request for many major investment programs including:  CH-47 and UH-60, and AH-64 Block III helicopters; Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle and STRYKER programs; and F-35 (JSF), F/A-18E/F, EA-18G, and C-130J aircraft.  The bill also would add $60 million to keep open the option to buy more F-18 aircraft in 2014.  The bill supports continuing development of the KC-46A tanker program, but cuts requested funding by $87.1 million. 

The SASC approves multiyear procurement authority for V-22, Virginia-class submarine, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  The bill adds $777.8 million to advance procurement for attack submarines and would allow incremental funding to buy another submarine in 2014.  The SASC bill also would allow the Navy to incrementally fund Ford-class aircraft carriers over six rather than five years and the refueling overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln over two years.

The military construction authorization request would be reduced by $660 million under the SASC bill.  Funding for incrementally-funded construction projects would be reduced by $200 million.  The bill prohibits funds to realign Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam until DoD submits a plan showing the costs and schedule for all projects needed to meet the plan.

The full Senate is not expected to take up the bill until after the July 4th recess.