The US Air Force has declared the first squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters combat ready.
Outside the 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters authorized by the 2019 defense policy bill, congressional appropriators are adding another 16 for any total of 93.
Congressional conferees on Thursday finalized a $674.4 billion defense spending bill for pick up packaged with funding for the departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, or Labor-HHS, plus a continuing resolution through Dec. 7 for some other parts from the government.
As usual, appropriators used their annual defense spending bill to offer tweaks for the existing grocery list for military hardware from your previous version, which President Donald Trump signed into law last month.
The new compromise spending bill, which trumps the authorization bill, buys three littoral combat ships as an alternative to two and 13 Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys rather than seven, among other differences.
The Navy and Marine Corps carry on and spend money on vertical takeoff aircraft and announced a $4.2 billion seek many new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft just weeks ago.
But the Navy has been trying to cap its purchases of the LCS amid the program’s troubles. In June, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told appropriators three ships were two lots of.
“These two additional ships are not needed,” Mulvaney said in a memo. “One LCS in FY 2019, when combined with three funded in FY 2018, help keep both shipyards provided with enough work to remain viable for that Frigate competition.”
One LCS manufacturer is Austal, in Mobile, Alabama, which happens to be the house state of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby.
For that matter, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger’s Fort Worth, Texas, district includes the massive Lockheed Martin assembly plant for the F-35.
The House and Senate are hoped for to feed the measure prior to the start in the fiscal year, Oct. 1, in order to avoid the optics of your government shutdown in advance of midterm elections in November.
“We have a a fantastic, strong support with this, looking at job base and also military strength. And I’m proud of the bill, and I think people who voted for this is going to be proud of it too,” Granger said Thursday.
Appropriators otherwise took a particular curiosity about weapons and munitions RDT&E, adding $482 million for the Trump administration request $40 million in related categories. Lawmakers added another $508 million for hypersonic prototyping that the administration would not include in its budget submission.
Again, this appears like very good news for Lockheed. The U.S. Air Force picked the defense giant a few weeks ago to create another hypersonic weapon prototype, getting hired as a hypersonic powerhouse.
On the other side, the bill includes language echoing the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act’s pause on sales of F-35s to NATO ally Turkey, pending a fresh assessment of U.S., Turkey relations. The move bucks Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who may have warned this could cause an international supply chain disruption, because aircraft is co-produced with Ankara.
The bill includes $606.5 billion in base discretionary funding, a boost of $17 billion higher than the FY18-enacted level, and it parks $67.9 billion in off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations account. Overall, it hews on the two-year spending deal that eases statutory budget caps to allot $716 billion to national defense in 2019.
Military personnel and pay totals $143.2 billion (with a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops); operations and maintenance totals $243.2 billion (about $3 billion under the NDAA); research, development test and evaluation totals $94.9 billion; and procurement totals $148 billion.