The House Armed Services Committee committee denied the U.S. Air Force the ability to use any money in 2013 “to divest or retire, or prepare to divest or retire” the C-27J. (Alenia Aeronautica)
Consistent with a staunch resistance to further cuts in defense spending, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has added $2.8 billion to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget request for ships, aircraft and weapons.
The full markup of the HASC bill isn’t scheduled until May 9, but details were released May 7 under a pledge from chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., to provide more transparency in the committee’s operations.
Overall, the committee’s bill provides $554 billion in defense spending with another $88 billion for overseas contingency funds.
That’s $29 billion over the Pentagon’s request for $525.4 billion in base defense spending, but on par with the contingency request.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the committee, noted that “simply spending more money on defense does not make us safer.”
In an email statement, Smith said that “given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned that the top-line number is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Agreement. Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Agreement number. We should do the same.”
Compared with the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget request from earlier this year, the HASC made the following changes to the procurement budget:
Aircraft procurement rose $389 million, largely on the strength of plus-ups to the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper UAV programs and $138 million to keep its C-27Js. Advance procurement funds deemed excessive for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were cut by $64 million, along with another $23 million in “premature” spares for the aircraft, which has not yet entered service.
Ammunition spending rose $163 million due to increases in Joint Direct Attack Munitions, general bombs, rockets and fuses.
Missile procurement rose $95 million from increases to the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and Predator Hellfire missile.
Missile procurement jumped $100 million, split between increases for the Hellfire and Patriot PAC-3 missiles.
Weapons and combat vehicle procurement jumped $383 million, due chiefly to increases in Abrams tank upgrades, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle program and the M88A2 Hercules improved recovery vehicle.
Ammunition procurement was reduced by $108 million, primarily because of cuts to 5.56 mm and 30mm ammunition and Excalibur 155 mm rounds.
Funds under “other procurement” dropped $80 million, spread over several programs.
Shipbuilding and conversion funds rose nearly $900 million, primarily for advance procurement of an additional submarine and destroyer to the 2014 shipbuilding program.
Aircraft procurement rose overall about $100 million, and included an additional $170 million to restore five previously-cut MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
Weapons procurement rose $113 million, spread over a number of programs.
Total Marine Corps procurement funding dropped by $140 million due to a decrease requested by the Corps for the light armored vehicle product improvement program.
Across the Defense Department, the HASC recommends a rise of $2.141 billion in procurement spending, from $97.432 billion to $99.573 billion.
Procurement spending for overseas operations rose by $620 million, from $9.687 billion to $10.308 billion.
Responding to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticizing the lack of a senior-level “point of focus” for urgent operational needs and rapid acquisition efforts, the committee would require the defense secretary to designate a senior Pentagon official as that focal point. The official would “manage, oversee, track, and monitor all emerging capability gaps identified by the war fighter in theater.”
A Senior Integration Group established in June 2011 as a single authority to prioritize and direct fulfillment of joint urgent operational needs falls short of the GAO’s recommendations, the committee said, leading to the need for the “senior-level focal point.”
The committee also expressed its concern that a review of the Pentagon’s joint urgent needs process — mandated by the 2011 defense authorization act and required to be sent to Congress in January 2012 — is not expected to be completed before August of this year.
Iran’s development of nuclear weapons drew the committee’s attention with a provision stating, “it is the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if necessary, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.”
The committee directed that in addition to furnishing an annual report on China’s military power, the Pentagon must also report on that country’s space and cyber strategies, goals and capabilities.
In a new requirement, the Pentagon must also compile a report on North Korea’s military and security developments, due Nov. 1, 2013.
The committee also approved — again — a request to rename the Department of the Navy as the “Department of the Navy and Marine Corps,” a long-time request from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.
Under Air Force provisions, the committee denied the service the ability to use any money in 2013 “to divest or retire, or prepare to divest or retire,” C-27J aircraft. A series of reporting requirements after 2013 would need to be met before the aircraft could be disposed of, including an affordable spending analysis for the plane’s operation by the Air National Guard.