With the fiscal year winding down, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a multi-agency appropriation deal that will prevent a government shutdown and provide the Defense Department its full-year budget on agenda for the first time in a decade.
The measure, which supplies for over $606 billion in base defense spending and nearly $68 billion more in overseas contingency funds, is in line with White House requests and spending targets outlined inside annual defense authorization bill approved earlier this summer.
“After subjecting America’s all-volunteer armed forces to years of belt tightening, this legislation will build on our recent progress in rebuilding the readiness of our military and investing more within the people who wear the uniform,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said ahead of the Senate vote.
The funding total, approved by way of a 93-7 vote, comes down to a boost of more than 3 % for military spending in fiscal 2019, but as critical as the boost could be the timing of the measure.
In the past few years, Congress has struggled to pass through any appropriations measures before the start from the new fiscal year, relying instead on the compilation of budget extensions to avoid partial government shutdowns.
That has infuriated Pentagon leaders, who may have said the fractured appropriations process prevents them from keeping equipment purchases and new program starts promptly.
If the House finalizes the appropriations measure in a few days and President Donald Trump signs it into law inside following week (all parties involved have signed they expect to do so ), it will mark initially since 2008 that Congress as well as the White House have passed their spending plans promptly.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called that “a major victory” for Congress and also the military.
The measure funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops starting next January and a rise in military end strength of 16,400 spread over the active-duty and reserve forces.
Operation and maintenance spending totals $243.2 billion with the defense total, and research and development efforts another $96.1 billion. Defense health insurance military family programs would receive $34.4 billion.
The appropriations fund 13 new Navy ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers as well as Virginia-class submarines, 93 F-35 aircraft, 58 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 66 AH-64 Apache helicopters, 13 V-22 aircraft, and $1.5 billion for the upgrade of 135 Abrams tanks.
The National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account would also view a $1.3 billion boost through the appropriations plan.
In order to prevent political fights over non-defense spending levels, lawmakers opted for package the military budget bill with all the full-year funding for the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.
In addition, the legislation has a budget extension for any couple of agency budgets lawmakers haven’t yet finished negotiating. The move minimizes a government shutdown at the end with the month, when the fiscal year ends.
Several senators lamented ahead of the vote that most in the appropriations bills have never yet been finalized, but for the very first time in years, defense advocates aren’t some of those complaining.
In addition to the full Defense Department appropriations plan, lawmakers yesterday finalized a spending plan for military construction projects and also the Department of Veterans Affairs, covering nearly all areas of national defense and military personnel spending.