Congress Nears Completion of Defense Bill
House and Senate negotiators, who included Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Joe Courtney, reached a deal on a bill that would authorize up to $634 billion for the Pentagon and nearly $66 billion for wartime missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere – settling differences in separately approved House and Senate bills that cleared each chamber earlier this year.
The bill provides nearly $30 billion more for the Pentagon than what President Donald Trump sought in his 2018 budget proposal.
The final version cannot be amended and now goes to both the House and Senate for up-or-down votes. It is expected to pass in each and then be forwarded to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law.
Courtney and Blumenthal issued statements late last week outlining.
“I am pleased to have taken part in a bipartisan, bicameral process that will keep America’s economy strong, our shores safe, and our troops supported,” Blumenthal said.
“This agreement retains bold action to expand our attack submarine fleet – one of my highest priorities which started with our efforts in the subcommittee,” Courtney said. “With authority to go up to 13 submarines in the next contract being negotiated right now, and the additional funding authorization and flexibility provided, the Navy can start to address the looming shortfall in the fleet that will strain our submarines and fall short of our national security needs.”
Both Democrats said they fought to include critical funding to support Connecticut’s defense manufacturing sector, including robust funding for the state’s prized programs – nearly $8 billion for Virginia and Columbia Class submarines built by Electric Boat, over $2 billion for Black Hawks and CH-53Ks built by Sikorsky Aircraft, and over $10 billion for joint strike fighters powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
Here’s some of what Courtney says is in the bill for Connecticut:
• Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes $5.9 billion for the Virginia class submarine program. Of the total, $3.3 billion supports two submarines in 2018, in line with the current block IV multi-year contract.
• Increasing Attack Submarine Build Rate – The measure includes multiyear procurement authority for up to 13 Virginia-class attack submarines for the next five years, three more than currently planned by the Trump administration. This would allow the Navy to sustain the two-a-year rate at a minimum, and add a third boat in 2020, 2022, and 2023.
• Joint Strike Fighter – authorizes 90 F-35 aircraft, 20 more than the budget request.
• Long Range Strike Bomber – fully supports the continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
• Blackhawks – authorizes 53 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, 5 more than the budget request.
• CH-53K – supports continued development of the new Marine heavy lift helicopter, as well as the procurement of 4 aircraft.
• Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – Fully funds the budget request for continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.
• KC-46A Tanker – authorizes 17 KC-46A tanker aircraft, 3 more than the budget request.