WASHINGTON ― In a rebuke to President Joe Biden’s proposed defense budget, a key Republican is recommending $25 billion more in spending for the House’s draft defense policy bill.
House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers, R-Ala., plans to offer an amendment to his panel’s draft 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which is set to be debated in committee on Wednesday. It would increase weapons procurement spending by $9.8 billion, drawing significantly from the military’s unfunded priorities lists.
Defense News obtained multiple summaries of the amendment, which were circulating on Capitol Hill Monday. The amendment comes as HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., unveiled a draft NDAA that matches Biden’s request of $744 billion for Pentagon and Energy Department defense programs.
Republicans, and some Democrats, have said for weeks that Biden’s national defense proposal, which planned to divest some ships and aircraft to prioritize modernization, is inadequate to deter a rising China. Rogers said in a statement he hopes to see the amendment supported.
“We cannot afford to cut corners and play politics with our national security,” Rogers said. “President Biden’s proposed defense budget for FY22 was wholly inadequate — leaving our men in women in uniform in a vulnerable position and projected weakness to our adversaries.”
Rogers’ amendment would bar the Navy from decommissioning three aging cruisers, as part of a $4.7 billion seapower spending addition over Smith’s mark. It also would include $1.5 billon for another DDG-51; $1.2 billion for an additional amphibious assault ship; $668 million for an added oiler and $567 million to expand procurement to three Virginia-class submarines per year.
The amendment would add $1.7 billion for air power, including $394 million for four additional KC-130Js for the Navy and Marine Corps; $340 million for two additional P-8 Poseidons for the Navy; and $212 million for nine additional UH-60 Blackhawks for the Army National Guard.
It proposes $878 million in ground vehicle additions, including $234 million for Abrams tank upgrades; $183 million for HMMWV modifications; $139 million for Stryker upgrades and $120 million for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.
Another $5.2 billon is added for research, development, test, evaluation accounts, including $3.7 billion for “emerging technologies,” according to one summary. Budget lines for military construction and facilities improvements would net another $3.8 billion in total.
At least one Democrat, House Armed Services Committee vice chair Elaine Luria, has announced support for the Rogers amendment. Luria, who represents a shipbuilding-heavy district in Virginia, lauded the bill’s “significant investments” in shipyards and naval vessels that would be used to deter China in Pacific waters.
“Without additional resources, we will lose another generation of shipbuilding in this country, and we will be less prepared to defend both the U.S. and our allies’ interests,” Luria said. “I intend to join Ranking Member Rogers and support the amendment adding $25 billion to our defense budget.”
Last month, the evenly-divided Senate Armed Services Committee advanced a version of the FY22 NDAA that included $25 billion above Biden’s proposal. A FY22 defense appropriations bill that tracks with Biden’s budget advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee, but with less support.
In the narrowly divided House and the 50-50 Senate, Democrats will likely need Republicans to pass defense measures. For months, Rogers has been among the Republicans signaling that the path to gaining GOP support involves a defense plus-up. Smith and other lead Democrats have acknowledged that Republicans have significant leverage in that push.
Earlier this month, Smith told Defense News he doesn’t agree with the increase but is open to the idea as a means of advancing the bill.
“The people who want to spend more than the Biden number have built a lot of support, and yes, I think that [$25 billion increase] is a potential bipartisan pathway,” Smith said. “I don’t support it, I don’t think that’s where we should go, but at the end of the day, I have one vote.”
“The reality is, as we’ve seen with the defense appropriations bill, we do not have the votes to pass it with just Democrats, and that’s the worst kept secret in the building,” he added. “And it is very important to pass a defense bill; it has a lot of important policies that we’re trying to get done.”
Also on Monday, more than two dozen House Democrats warned against an increase, in a letter led by progressive Reps. Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee to Smith, rebuking the SASC’s plus-up when “America’s largest national security thread is a global pandemic.”
“Surpassing the President’s request by such a larger and unwarranted amount should not be the starting position of the House Armed Services Committee, particularly when current defense spending levels should already be reduced,” they wrote.
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.