WASHINGTON — Congress is set to vote this week on a temporary spending bill that includes the Pentagon's highest procurement priorities and keeps the government open and funded through April 28, 2017.
The continuing resolution made public Tuesday freezes most spending at the previous year's level, except for the following anomalies:
- $773 million more for the Ohio Replacement submarine advance procurement.
- Authorizes AH–64E Apache and UH–60M Black Hawk helicopter multiyear procurements to avoid delays that would increase costs.
- Funds the Air Force KC–46A tanker, which the Pentagon sought to avoid contract penalties on the program.
- $650 million more for the European Reassurance Initiative, included in a $8 billion plus-up for Overseas Contingency Operations.
- Streamlines the confirmation process for President-elect Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis. Because Mattis retired in 2013, he needs Congress to waive a seven-year cooling-off period.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told Defense News on Wednesday he would not vote for the CR because it shorts national defense spending and skips a budget for three quarters of the fiscal year.
It made no sense, McCain said, that after Trump told him "personally" he would rebuild the military that Congress would punt. "For nine of the 12 months of the fiscal year we are operating on last year's budget, and that's outrageous," McCain said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter last month fumed in a letter to congressional leaders that the lengthy CR, through the presidential transition, was "unprecedented and unacceptable" and urged Congress to reject it.
Save for specifically named anomalies, a CR denies DoD the authority to start new programs, increase production rates, or initiate multiyear procurement, which Carter called, "critical to securing the capabilities and capacity to execute the national defense strategy."
Joe Gould is the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He served previously as Congress reporter.