WASHINGTON — The sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government.
Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding.
The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion.
Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate say the legislation will come to a vote in both chambers before the end of the week. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers have to sprint to pass the bill before the latest stopgap funding measure runs out at at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
On Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., went to the White House to win over the president, who was upset the bill was not providing enough for a border wall. Ultimately, the White House signaled his intent to sign the bill, and the bill includes $1.6 billion toward physical barriers on the southern border.
However Sen. Rand Paul, who forced a brief government shutdown last month, would not say Wednesday whether he would move to obstruct the massive spending bill. To pass the bill quickly, Senate leaders would need unanimous consent to wave its rules.
“I will oppose the bill. I haven’t made a decision yet on whether or not I will consent to time agreements,” CNN quoted Paul as saying.
McConnell and Ryan have messaged, as they did with the recent deal to ease budget caps, that a vote for the massive government spending bill is a vote for the troops.
Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it.
According to a summary, the measure provide $137.7 billion for personnel and pay, which includes a 2.4 percent pay raise; $89.2 billion for research and development, an uptick of $16 billion over 2017; $144.3 billion for procurement, which is $25.4 billion above fiscal 2017.
It also includes $238 billion for operations and maintenance, which is $853 million above the request to reduce readiness shortfalls. Those shortfalls were a concern in the Pentagon and a central argument for pro-defense lawmakers.
The bill would provide some limited funding flexibility to the Pentagon for O&M, as House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger and others sought to compensate for the bill arrival midway through the fiscal year.
The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification.
“These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads.
The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan.
For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship.
For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements.
For land vehicles, there is $348 million for 116 Stryker Double V-Hull upgrades; $300 million for Stryker lethality upgrades; $1.1 billion for the upgrade of 85 Abrams tanks; $483 million for the upgrade of 145 Bradley fighting vehicles, and $220 million for National Guard High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle recapitalization, including $120 million specifically for ambulance modernization.
Munitions are funded at $16.2 billion, $1.9 billion above the president’s budget request, for the procurement of missiles and ammunition. “Additional funds address unfunded requirements identified by the military services, industrial base capacity support, and munitions replenishment,” according to the summary.
For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities.
There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.
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.