WASHINGTON – House appropriators introduced a $578 billion defense spending bill for fiscal 2017 on Thursday, and hope to race it to the floor next week.

The bill, which is late in coming, contains $516.1 billion in the base budget and $61.8 billion for the wartime Overseas Contingency Operations account—a rough match to the defense appropriations bill the House passed last summer and the 2017 defense policy bill President Barack Obama signed late last year.

It represents a $5.2 billion increase over the enacted 2016 budget and $1.6 billion more than Obama's request, according to the House Appropriations Committee. There is $3.2 billion more in OCO than the current levels. Equipment and upgrades are funded at $108.4 billion in the base budget and 9.4 billion in OCO.

2017 Defense Appropriations Bill Text

"The singular most important duty of Congress is to provide for our nation's defense, and the rebuilding of our nation's military starts with this bill," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., expressed optimism Congress would quickly pass the bill.

"We've tried to make the best decisions possible, within funding limitations, to support national security priorities like modernization of aging equipment and a pay increase for all military personnel," said Cochran.

"Our national defense should remain our highest priority, and I encourage the Congress to move to adopt this legislation."

Congress faces a full schedule, with an urgent $30 billion supplemental defense spending bill expected from the White House, 2018 appropriations to consider and an important deadline looming. To allow the incoming administration to put its stamp on the budget, Congress punted on regular appropriations late last year and instead passed a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government, which runs out on April 28.

Beyond procurement, the bill rejects planned Obama administration troop reductions to include increases above fiscal year 2016, to add 1,000 troops each to the active-duty Army,  Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Marine Corps.

Lawmakers found savings to the tune of $1.2 billion from lower-than-expected fuel costs; $157 million due to "favorable economic conditions"; and $4.76 billion in savings from rescissions of unused prior-year funding.

Bill highlights: 

- $21.2 billion for 13 Navy ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships, one LPD-17, and advance procurement for the polar icebreaker recapitalization project;

- $8.2 billion for 74 F-35 aircraft; $1.1 billion for 14 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.8 billion for 11 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $2.6 billion for 15 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $1.3 billion for 17 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft;;

- $1.1 billion for 61 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters; $774 million for 52 remanufactured AH-64 Apache helicopters, $190 million for five new Apaches, and $72 million to support advance-procurement needs for an additional 10 aircraft; $187 million for 28 Lakota light utility helicopters; an additional $114 million to equip two more brigades with WIN-T;

- $210 million for HMMWV modernization for the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve;

- $128.7 billion in base and $3.4 billion in OCO for military personnel and pay, including a 2.1 percent pay raise;

- $167.6 billion for base requirements and $47.7 billion in OCO for operation and maintenance, with $1.9 billion for readiness shortfalls;

- $72.3 billion for base requirements and $407 million in OCO for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies, to include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; the GPS III operational control and space segments; the new Air Force bomber program; a next-generation JSTARS aircraft; the RQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle; and the Ohio-class submarine replacement;

- $600.7 million for Israel cooperative programs.

Email:    jgould@defensenews.com  

Twitter:   @reporterjoe