WASHINGTON ― The final version of the 2020 defense appropriations bill would pave the way for U.S. President Donald Trump’s Space Force, part of a much wider spending deal between congressional leaders and the White House to finalize federal spending and avert a government shutdown.
The long-delayed bill, released Monday by the House and Senate Appropriations committees, must be approved by the two chambers and Trump before government funding expires Friday, Dec. 20 at 11:59 p.m. It was not immediately clear whether Trump supports the 12-bill agreement, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was part of the negotiations for the administration.
The defense bill is part of a new bipartisan budget deal that fills in the details for $1.4 trillion across government for the year. For defense, it’s consistent with $738 billion in defense funding for fiscal 2020, which is roughly a $20 billion increase over 2019, but less than the $750 billion Trump called for earlier in the year.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., announced the deal contained “robust investment in rebuilding our military and secures significant funds for the President’s border wall system," while his House counterpart, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said she was pleased it would “keep government open, provide the certainty of full-year funding, and make strong investments in key priorities for American communities.”
The appropriations bill follows the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which would redesignate Air Force Space Command as the new, sixth armed service. The appropriations bill, according to a summary, requires more detailed plans from the administration, but it grants the administration $40 million to establish the new service, which is $32 million less than the administration’s request.
The bill also reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank, an aerospace and defense industry priority. The bank, which assists in financing and facilitating U.S. exports of goods and services, is seen by industry as a tool to level the playing field with foreign competitors with better access to credit.
At the crux of a new deal, the White House will get $1.4 billion in homeland security funds for the border wall ― significantly less than the $5 billion Trump sought ― and no money to backfill the $3.6 billion in military construction funds the administration moved this year for the project. Democrats, in exchange, abandoned language to lower limits on the amount the military can shift between accounts, from $9.5 billion to $1.5 billion.
The new House bill funds defense procurement at $146 billion, an increase of $15 billion above the budget request.
It contains $1.87 billion for aviation programs, to include 98 F-35 aircraft, which is 20 more than the president’s request; eight F-15EX aircraft to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet; 12 KC-46A tankers; 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets; nine P-8A aircraft; and 74 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
It contains $23.9 billion for 14 warships, including three DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one frigate, one landing helicopter assault ship, one amphibious transport dock, one expeditionary fast transport ship, two oilers, two tugs and an aircraft carrier. It also funds three Virginia-class submarines, which is one less than Trump requested.
Its ground vehicle budget includes $1.7 billion for M1A2 SEPv3 upgrades, $1.5 billion for the Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, and a program increase of $250 million for the Stryker 30mm cannon upgrade.
The bill would fully fund the $1.2 billion request for national security space launch, and provide $10.4 billion to the Missile Defense Agency ― including $108 million for a space-based sensor array to focus on tracking hypersonic and ballistic missiles.
The appropriations deal nets Democrats a number of wins outside of the defense budget, including a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees; $425 million for election security grants, which was a key Democratic priority; and $1.4 billion more for the 2020 U.S. Census than Trump proposed.
House Democrats plan to split all 12 of the 2020 appropriations bills into two packages for floor consideration on Tuesday. Defense was part of a spending package including homeland security, commerce, justice, science, financial services and related agencies.
The federal government has been operating on a series of stopgap bills since the start of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2019. Because of the rules of a continuing resolution, the Pentagon has been unable to begin 79 new-start programs or 39 planned production increases.
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.