Senate appropriators want to add $24B to defense budget in bill

Senate appropriators are suggesting a nearly $24 billion increase to the defense budget, which would put the Pentagon more in line with the National Defense Strategy, complicate some plans to divest from legacy systems and dash some lawmakers’ hopes to rein in military spending.

The Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled a close to $726 billion budget for the Defense Department in 2022, putting a large chuck of those extra funds in the procurement of new aircraft and ships. It is about $29 billion more than the 2021 defense base budget. About $14 billion in other funds is set aside for the Pentagon in separate military construction and energy appropriations bills, bringing the total budget to about $740 billion.

The Biden administration requested about $706 billion for DoD base funding in its 2022 budget request and House appropriators stuck along those lines with their bill. With military construction and energy added in, the request totaled $715 billion.  Congress is already late in passing a 2022 budget. The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which will expire at the beginning of December.

“This defense bill strengthens our military and ensures the brave men and women that protect this country have the resources they need to keep Americans safe,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. “It makes key investments to address the most pressing needs of our military so we don’t lose ground to our adversaries, like China. It also makes common-sense cuts to underperforming programs and instead focuses on ensuring that our troops are well trained and well equipped with the most up to date technology. It’s critical that we work together to move this bill forward to protect our nation.”

The bill finds significant savings in the withdraw from the War in Afghanistan. The senators reallocated more than $3 billion that was requested for Afghan National Security Forces.

The subcommittee budgeted almost $9 billion over the president’s request for procurement. The biggest winner in that increase is the Navy, which would get almost $3 billion for shipbuilding and conversion. That includes funding for a new destroyer and three more ship to shore connectors than the administration asked for. The Navy will also get nine more V-22s under the plan and two more KC-130s.

The Air Force would get $1.5 billion more for aircraft in the plan. That includes 16 more C-130Js for the Air National Guard and six new F-35s.

Appropriators did not change much in the Army’s acquisition budget.

Outside of procurement, the committee suggests more than $4 billion more funding in research, development, testing and engineering. The bulk of that money goes to DoD-wide programs. That includes more than $750 million extra for space technology development and prototyping, $230 million for microelectronics and $21 million for improving operational energy capabilities.

The bill establishes a $500 million program to increase the adoption of artificial intelligence capabilities at the combatant commands and another $100 million to improve recruitment and development of talent for advancing AI.

The Space Force found itself growing quickly since its inception nearly two years ago. The bill gives the service an extra $500 million to bring the budget to about $18 billion. That’s a 16% increase from 2021. A lot of that money goes to weapons sustainment, basic research and experiments in the area between the earth and moon.

The legislation also gives DoD $400 million to implement recommendations to stem sexual assault in the military.

The bill completely rids DoD of the overseas contingency operations fund, an account used for emergency wartime spending that was sometimes used to circumvent budget caps.

DoD’s 2022 budget was an attempt to divest from some legacy systems. The Pentagon wanted to do away with swaths of aircraft like the A-10. The Senate bill seems to largely ignore that request and looks to expand funding, while also retaining older some weapons.

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