Pentagon & Congress

Congress races to pass $2.3T spending deal, with $696B for Pentagon

WASHINGTON ― Congress is rocketing to pass a massive $2.3 trillion spending package by Monday at 11:59 p.m. that includes pandemic relief and federal spending, with $696 billion for the Pentagon.

The full-year Pentagon spending bill released Monday morning as part of the mega package represents a $2.6 billion increase over the 2020-enacted level but $2.1 billion less than President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request.

It shakes out to $627.3 billion in base funding and $68.7 billion in wartime overseas contingency operations funding.

The deal includes $1.4 trillion in regular federal government spending for 2021 and $900 billion in coronavirus relief. One of the largest relief packages in modern history, it includes an extension of a reimbursement program for federal contractors under Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The legislation, which represents much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business for the year, was expected to sprint through both chambers. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers must pass the bills before the latest stopgap funding measure runs out at the end of Dec. 21. (The 2021 annual defense authorization bill remains in limbo, awaiting a possible veto — something the president has threatened — and an override vote by lawmakers.)

“The American people expect us to do our job, and after many months of work on this legislation, I am hopeful we can swiftly advance the bipartisan package through Congress and on to the President’s desk. Funding the government, including our Armed Forces, is our fundamental responsibility,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

“Providing relief to struggling Americans and businesses is paramount as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year has been unprecedented in a number of ways. Completing our work is all the more important. I urge my colleagues to support this package.”

“I’m incredibly honored that my final legislation as a Member of Congress will provide full-year funding for all of government and deliver urgently-needed coronavirus relief to save lives and livelihoods,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “The process was not always smooth, but at the end of the day we secured funding increases for critical priorities and strong emergency relief to crush the virus and put more money in people’s pockets.”

The House passed its $694.6 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2021 in July as part of a $1.3 trillion package. Senate Republican waited until November to introduce their $1.4 trillion spending package, which included $696 billion for defense.

According to Monday’s summary of the compromise bill, the legislation funds the request of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft at $1.7 billion; 96 F-35 aircraft at $9.6 billion, which is 17 more than Trump’s request and includes 60 F-35As, 10 F-35Bs and 26 F-35Cs; and 12 F-15EX aircraft at $9.6 billion to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet.

It also spends $1.6 billion for nine Navy Reserve P-8A Poseidon aircraft that the president did not request.

It surpasses Trump’s request by $189 million for the first five CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopter and long-lead funding for the second five CH-47F Block II Chinooks; and by $141 million above the request to fund a total of 42 UH/HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

It also includes six more V-22 aircraft (for 15 total) at $1.4 billion.

The bill adds a Virginia-class submarine in its $23.3 billion shipbuilding allotment to build 10 Navy vessels. Those dollars would also buy two DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers; two SSN-774 attack submarines; one Columbia-class submarine; one frigate; two towing, salvage and rescue ships; one expeditionary fast transport; and one amphibious transport dock.

It also provides $500 million in incremental funding for LHA 9, a landing helicopter assault ship, and $73 million for advance procurement for one expeditionary sea base.

For the Army, it funds upgrades for 271 Stryker combat vehicles at $1.16 billion, or $375 million over the request; funds upgrades for 89 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPv3 tank variant for $968 million; provides $100 million for the Army National Guard to modernize Humvees; and funds the Army’s request for 1,920 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and 1,334 JLTV companion trailers at $884 million.

The bill funds the Army long-range hypersonic weapon at $861 million, or $60 million above the request; provides $88.1 million above the request for systems integration and testing in support of the Army’s mid-range missile development; and provides $161 million to support the Army’s enduring Indirect Fire Protection Capability program.

After a series of explosions and fires at Army munitions plants, the bill would provide $84 million above the request for safety and environmental upgrades of Army industrial facilities and $62 million above the request for Army organic industrial base investments.

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