In its report on the bill, the
Armed Services Committee specifically addresses the Department of
the Navy’s anticipated strike fighter shortfall, which is expected to
number about 134 aircraft in
2020, with an average shortfall of
about 100 aircraft between now
The panel also expressed concern in the report that budget cuts
— which have deferred the Navy’s
procurement of 16 F-35C carrier-based fighters — will only exacerbate the shortfall and reduce the
military’s strike fighter capabilities.
But without a long-term bipartisan budget deal that significantly
raises military spending, it is unlikely the Pentagon will decide on its
own to speed up procurement of
those jets starting in fiscal 2017, as
the committee requested.
Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter,
have stressed that the budget proposal and the long-term spending plan
address the services’ most pressing
priorities and that increases in one
place mean sacrifice somewhere else.
But Congress has many tricks at
its disposal to fit other items into the
budget, even one that is capped by
law. For one, House lawmakers took
much of the pressure off of the Pen-
tagon’s budget by shifting some $38
billion from the base budget to the re-
latively unconstrained war accounts.
Meanwhile, lawmakers can tap
unspent prior-year dollars to pay
other bills and make small cuts to
dozens — and, in some cases, hundreds — of programs to make
room for other priorities without
axing individual programs.
House Armed Services members
approved their version of the bill just
weeks after the military services sent
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 6 SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015
Congress Looks to Give Navy,
Marines More Fighter Aircraft
Despite budget constraints, hawkish lawmakers appear poised to give the Navy and Marine Corps
what service officials desire most: More advanced
fighter jets to boost aviation assets and make up for
shortfalls in the services’ existing inventories.
The House Armed Services Committee was the first
congressional defense panel to take a crack at the fiscal
2016 budget proposal, approving a defense authorization bill in late April that adds 12 more F/A-18E/F Super
Hornets for the Navy and six more F-35B Lightning II
joint strike fighter jets for the Marine Corps than the
Pentagon requested. The panel, whose bill establishes
Pentagon policy and prescribes spending levels, typically sets the tone as well as the priorities for congressional
debate on the Defense Department’s budget.
The House on May 15 passed the $612 billion National
Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2016 by a vote of 269
to 151. It now heads to the Senate, which completed a
closed markup of its version of the bill on May 14. While
the final defense authorization measure likely will not
head to the president’s desk until the end of the year, the
decision to beef up buys of the popular fighters bodes
well for Navy and Marine Corps aviation.
An F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron
121, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., per-
forms a vertical landing as part of required flying field carrier
landing practices at the station’s auxiliary landing field April
27. In its recent fiscal 2016 budget deliberations, the House
Armed Services Committee added six more F-35Bs for the
Marine Corps than the Pentagon requested.