The final defense agreement dropped a House proposal to dip into war spending to pay for more than
$15 billion in weapons and other military programs —
a maneuver Democrats considered an end-run around
those caps. But the bill does add $15 billion in war-related spending, roughly half of the supplemental
request proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this year.
The increase in defense funds, combined with
hundreds of small cuts throughout the massive Pentagon budget, allowed appropriators to shift funds
to make room for some additional ships for the Navy
and a down payment for a polar icebreaker for the
In total, the shipbuilding accounts came to $21.2
billion, $2.8 billion above the amount requested. That
includes an LPD 17 amphibious transport dock ship, a
DDG 51 guided-missile destroyer and a shore-hugging
littoral combat ship not included in the original budget
proposal for this year. Congress also added $150 million for long-lead items for the polar icebreaker.
The omnibus includes $1.1 billion for 14 Super
Hornet fighters for the Navy, 12 more than requested.
The jets are a perennial favorite on Capitol Hill, where
lawmakers see them as a cost-effective and quick way
to mitigate the Navy’s strike-fighter shortfall.
But Congress also opted to invest heavily in
fifth-generation fighters, setting aside $8.2 billion
for 74 F-35s, 11 more than the Obama administration
requested. That plus-up includes $74 million for four
F-35C aircraft carrier variants for the Navy and Marine
Corps and two of the Marine Corps’ F-35B vertical
Other additions include $207 million for two C- 40
aircraft for the Navy Reserve and $148 million for two
MV- 22 Osprey tiltrotors for the Marine Corps. The
spending bill also gives the Marine Corps an additional
$205 million for aviation spares and repair parts to
address the service’s maintenance backlog and readiness issues.
Outside the defense bill, the Department of
Transportation’s Maritime Administration received
$523 million in the omnibus, $100 million above the
fiscal 2017 request and $123 million more than last
year’s spending levels. The additional money is aimed
at increasing productivity, efficiency and safety of
the country’s ports and intermodal water and land
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard received $10.5 billion in
the omnibus, which comes to $344 million above the
request. Total funding for the Coast Guard, however, is
still down $467.3 million from last year.
Nonetheless, the increase above the request primarily would help the Coast Guard modernize, with $233
million of the additional funding allocated for recapitalization of ships, aircraft and facilities. In addition
to the icebreaker, the bill procures an Offshore Patrol
Cutter, an HC-130J aircraft, six Fast-Response Cutters
and facility improvements at several sites around the
The bill also keeps the Coast Guard on schedule for
a new cutter fleet, including post-delivery items for
the ninth National Security Cutter and a down payment
for the 10th.
Lawmakers completed work on the fiscal 2017
request just weeks before the Trump administration
delivered the details of its budget proposal for fiscal
2018 to Capitol Hill. The proposal would blow past
defense budget caps by some $54 billion to pay for
White House priorities like new ships and advanced
Congress, however, is unlikely to come to an
agreement to raise the defense caps by that much, so
lawmakers will likely have to pick and choose among
the Pentagon’s — and their own — priorities as work
gets under way this summer on the annual defense
authorization and appropriations bills for fiscal 2018,
which begins Oct. 1.
The House Armed Services Committee will, as usual,
provide the first glimpse of how Congress will handle
the request when the panel meets to consider the authorization measure during a marathon markup in late
June. The Senate Armed Services Committee and the
House and Senate Appropriations committees will follow suit later this summer.
No to Separate Cyber Service
The commander of U.S. Cyber Command said he
is not in favor of a separate cyber service, citing the
need not only for technical proficiency in the military’s
cyber warriors, but also for a deep understanding of
the broader context of military operations.
“I’m not a proponent of the idea of a separate cyber
force or service,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, commander
of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National
Security Agency (NSA), testified May 9 before the
Senate Armed Services Committee. “In my experience,
to be successful in cyber you not only need to understand the technical aspects of this, but you need to
understand the broader context in which cyber evolutions occur.
“Somewhere in the world there is a man or woman
sitting at a keyboard directing an operation. If we went