An amendment to the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill would encourage the Navy to buy two Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets per month. (MC3 Derek A. Harkins/Navy)
WASHINGTON — A US House panel on Wednesday approved provisions restricting the Air Force’s ability to retire its E-3 warning aircraft, encouraging the Navy to build two F/A-18E/F Super Hornets each month, and ordering the Pentagon to hand over reams of information.
The House Armed Services Committee began its markup of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act by approving several en bloc amendment packages. Included was one offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., that “encourages” the Navy to use advanced procurement dollars to build at least two Boeing Super Hornets per month.
Hartzler’s amendment does not require the Navy to do anything. Rather, it “encourages the chief of naval operations to utilize the advanced procurement funds for F/A-18E/F aircraft in [fiscal 2014] ($75 million) to extend the production line to a minimum production rate of two aircraft per month.”
The amendment notes that monthly rate would ensure a strike fighter aircraft production line “is in place for future procurement.” Boeing builds the Super Hornets at a production facility in Hartzler’s home state of Missouri.
Meanwhile, the panel also approved a stand-alone amendment offered by Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., that would limit the Pentagon’s ability to retire more than four E-3 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.
The Bridenstine measure would limit the amount of money available to retire more than four at a time until 15 days after the Air Force secretary sends the congressional defense committees a report that certifies the planned 24-plane AWACS fleet will meet all combatant commanders’ needs and explain how the service will meet those requirements with two dozen models.
Also included in the package was an amendment by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., mandating, if in the final bill, the defense secretary deliver lawmakers a 10-year plan for munitions for US Pacific Command.
The Forbes amendment would cover the “identification of munitions requirements, and assessment of munitions gaps and shortfalls, and necessary investments ... beginning with 2015.”
The amendment is consistent with Forbes’ push to more closely examine the Obama administration’s “pivot” or “rebalance” of US national security and foreign policy strategic thinking, diplomatic and military tools, and dollars to the Asia-Pacific region.
The package also includes an amendment from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., which would mandate an Army plan for modernizing the entire fleet of Sikorsky-made UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters.
The report would require the Army to spell out a “detailed timeline” for that work, as well as a specific number of L, L-Digital and M models of the UH-60 the Army National Guard would possess when the work is complete. Notably, it also would require the Army to lay out the per-year cost of the modernization plan. ■