WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans’ proposed $1 trillion coronavirus relief package includes at least $7 billion for weapons programs, part of $29 billion for defense overall.
The 177-page draft appropriations legislation unveiled Monday would include funding for military helicopters, aircraft, ships and missile defense systems.
The bill also includes $11 billion to reimburse defense contractors for coronavirus-related expenses, as authorized by Section 3610 of the CARES Act. Defense firms and trade associations have lobbied for the funding, fearing the Pentagon would otherwise have to tap modernization and readiness accounts.
The legislation’s release marks the end of weeks of wrangling between the White House and congressional Republicans, who are still divided over its price tag. It also kicks off the start of formal negotiations with Democrats.
“The American people need more help. They need it to be comprehensive. And they need it to be carefully tailored to this crossroads,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Monday.
The inclusion of defense spending, which Republicans have reportedly touted as essential for the economy and national defense, was just one aspect criticized by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who said the overall package was inadequate to protect Americans
“If all of this were not bad enough, the bill contains billions of dollars for programs unrelated to the coronavirus, including over $8 billion for what appears to be a wish-list from the Department of Defense for manufacturing of planes, ships, and other weapons systems,” Leahy said in a statement.
The pandemic has created weapons program slowdowns, temporary factory closures and cash flow problems, particularly for smaller firms. The Pentagon was been working in close communication to respond to the problems, largely by making billions of dollars in advance payments to contractors.
Congress previously sent the Defense Department $10.5 billion under the CARES Act.
Defense primes Boeing and Lockheed Martin appear to be the major beneficiaries of procurement dollars in the proposed bill.
The bill includes more than $1 billion for Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Navy.
The Air Force would receive $686 million for additional Lockheed F–35A jets, $720 million for Lockheed C–130Js and $650 million for A–10 wing replacements―which Boeing is contracted to perform.
Shipbuilding funds include $1.45 billion for four expeditionary medical ships, $260 million for one expeditionary fast transport ship, with $250 million for for amphibious shipbuilding and $250 for the surface combatant supplier base program.
The Army would receive $375 million more to upgrade the Double V-Hull Strykers and $283 million for new AH–64 Apache Block IIIB helicopters.
The bill would boost missile defense accounts, with more than $300 million for the the Lockheed Martin-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program and its Raytheon-made AN/TPY-2 radar. Another $200 million would be to extend the life of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, for which Boeing is the prime contractor.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.