WASHINGTON ― In a rebuke to the Trump administration’s border wall funding maneuvers, House Democrats are proposing a Pentagon spending bill that slashes the amount of money the military can shift between accounts from $9.5 billion to $1.5 billion.
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released its 2020 Pentagon funding bill, which proposes $690.2 billion, of which $622.1 billion is in base funds and $68.1 billion is overseas contingency operations, or OCO, funds.
The bill is consistent with a $733 billion national defense budget proposed by Democrats. That proposal includes military construction and Department of Energy nuclear programs. That’s less than President Donald Trump’s $750 billion national defense request for fiscal 2020 and less for defense than the GOP-led Senate is likely to propose.
“This bill rejects the Trump administration’s budgetary gimmicks and sleights of hand and instead provides the Defense Department with appropriate resources to address an evolving threat landscape and ensure the security of our nation and our allies,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said in a statement, adding that the bill is “protecting defense funding from being stolen for the President’s wasteful wall.”
A fact sheet accompanying the bill said the proposal reduces transfer authority in response to the Pentagon’s “abuse” of that authority — referring to the Pentagon shifting dollars to cover barriers on America’s border with Mexico.
House Democrats also largely eschewed the White House’s strategy of parking $164 billion in OCO to skirt budget caps. The White House proposed a 9 percent cut to nondefense spending, and the OCO gambit is meant to break the trend of mega bipartisan compromises that lift nondefense appropriations to roughly match the defense side.
The new House bill funds procurement at $142 billion, an increase of $11.4 billion above the budget request. It includes 90 F-35 aircraft, which is 12 more than the president’s request; eight F-15EX aircraft to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet; 73 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; and 14 V-22 aircraft.
The bill would also bar the transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey to prevent the exposure of cutting-edge technology to the S-400 Russian air defense system, which the country plans to buy.
The bill’s $21.7 billion for 11 ships would be for three DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers, two SSN-774 attack submarines, one frigate, one Ford-class aircraft carrier, two oilers, and two ships for towing, salvage and rescue. It also funds advance procurement of the first Columbia-class submarine and three Virginia-class submarines.
Its ground vehicle budget includes $249 million above the request for 86 30mm cannons and weapon stations for Stryker vehicles, and it funds the request for the upgrade of 165 Abrams tanks.
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.