Home » Aviation » Wrapup: HASC Passes FY2017 Defense Bill With Reagan-Era Spending Levels

Wrapup: HASC Passes FY2017 Defense Bill With Reagan-Era Spending Levels

USS George Washington (CVN-73) and its strike group in 2013. The House voted to refuel the carrier rather than decommission the ship. US Navy Photo

USS George Washington (CVN-73) and its strike group in 2013. The House voted to refuel the carrier rather than decommission the ship. US Navy Photo

The House Armed Services Committee this week passed a bill that gave the Navy and Marine Corps virtually everything they wanted in their procurement accounts – plus an additional $5.9 billion in a separate account – creating a Reagan-era defense bill for their Senate counterparts to accept or reject.

HASC left the Navy and Marines’ procurement requests almost entirely in tact, only taking money away from the Remote Multimission Vehicle (RMMV) program due to an upcoming restructure, deeming MH-60R production line shutdown costs “early to need” and trimming a paltry – by Pentagon standards – $9.5 million from a ship missile support equipment program.

In a separate section called Procurement For Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) For Base Requirements, though, the committee added $1.4 billion for 14 Boeing F/A-18E-F Super Hornets; $540 million for four carrier-variant F-35C Joint Strike Fighters, two each for the Navy and the Marine Corps; $254 million for two Marine-variant F-35Bs; $150 million for two MV-22 Ospreys; $415 million for four C-40A transport planes, two each for the Navy and Marine Corps; and more, for a total of $3.2 billion in aircraft procurement spending outside of the base budget. The OCO-for-Base account also includes $2.3 billion in incremental and advance procurement funding in the shipbuilding account which, along with weapons and other spending, totals $5.9 billion in Navy and Marine Corps spending in this account.

The section uses OCO money, which is not subject to the defense spending caps set in the Bipartisan Budget Act, and therefore gets the military around the low congressionally mandated spending levels that officials have for years said is hurting military readiness.

“Platforms deployed well beyond their intended useful life, inadequate supplies of high demand assets, outdated technology, and equipment that is too expensive to maintain all exacerbate the readiness crisis. The Chairman’s Mark makes key investments to accelerate the transition to new, more effective, and more reliable platforms, and provides additional high-demand assets to reduce the stress on the force,” HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) wrote in a summary of the bill, noting the importance of restoring readiness to the force this year.
“Delivery of new equipment is essential, but Congress must make vital maintenance investments not included in the President’s budget to ensure that next-to-deploy units are mission capable. In addition to funding maintenance accounts, the Chairman’s Mark grants direct hire authority to depots in order to alleviate their critical manpower shortages. The Chairman’s Proposal increases Navy Ship and Aircraft depot maintenance and afloat readiness by $530 million and Air Force depot maintenance by $430 million, while also including $160 million for Navy Cruiser modernization and $67 million for Marine Corps logistics. Each of these investments was identified as a critical requirement by the military services; none of them were fully funded in the President’s Budget Request.”

HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said in a statement ahead of the bill markup that “this mark increases shipbuilding to $20.6 billion, $2.3 billion more than the President’s budget, and the highest level of shipbuilding funding since the Reagan-Lehman era, adjusting for inflation. It also rejects the administration’s plan to layup 11 cruisers once more, and prevents the disestablishment of one of 10 carrier air wings. With this legislation, we are rejecting further budget cuts, bending the curve lines, and making a down payment on the 350-ship Navy we need for national defense.”

As generous as the procurement section of the bill is, though, the personnel and the operations and maintenance sections are funded only through April 30, 2017. Thornberry said in remarks before the bill markup that “there will be a new president, who undoubtedly will review the operational activities proposed by President Obama as well as the funding levels for them. And the new president and the new Congress will have the opportunity to make adjustments.” Thornberry noted that this happened in FY 2009, when a “bridge fund” was passed to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early part of the year and another supplemental funding package was passed once the Obama administration was in place.

Overall, the committee allows for $610.5 billion in spending despite a $574-billion limit in the House Budget Committee’s FY 2017 plan through balancing spending between the base and OCO accounts. The full House of Representatives will have to vote to pass the bill, and the Senate Armed Services Committee will go through the same process to pass its own bill later this spring. The House and Senate will have to merge their two versions and the president will have to sign the legislation before these spending items become law.

The defense bill, in addition to laying out spending authority, also sets policy – this year’s bill is chock full of reforms on defense acquisition, Pentagon organization and military personnel benefits – and also indicates future potential actions through a section of “directive report language.”

Among the items the committee ordered the Navy and Pentagon to report back on are:

  • A provision in the bill noting the upcoming loss of land attack strike capability with the retirement of the SSGN guided missile submarines and the “potential for some of our amphibious force assets to accommodate additional capabilities in terms of space, weight, and machinery capacity,” and directs the Navy to report back on the possibility of inserting the MK 41 Vertical Launch System into the LPD hull design.
  • A provision in the bill noting the committee’s concerns regarding a curtailed Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate program, and directing the Comptroller General of the United States to submit a report detailing “Plans to develop and mature the frigate design prior to starting production; The strategy for acquiring the frigate; Realism of frigate cost estimates; and Planned capability of the frigate and the degree to which it will meet the Navy’s small surface combatant needs.”
  • An amendment proposed by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) preventing any funds from being used to downselect to a single shipbuilder for the LCS/frigate program until the Secretary of the Navy reports back with additional information on program requirements.
  • A provision in the bill noting the Navy’s one-a-year planned build rate for the new John Lewis-class fleet oiler program, and requesting information on industrial base capacity to build two a year.
  • A provision in the bill notes the flexibility of the Expeditionary Mobile Base (formerly called the Afloat Forward Staging Base) and requests more information on “how the procurement of additional ships of this class would provide multiple mission requirements around the globe including (Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response) and special operations. The committee specifically requests additional analysis as to how this capability is integrated into the overall Navy force structure assessment.”
  • An amendment proposed by Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) noting that U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) will lose an undersea mobility asset when the Navy’s SSGN guided missile submarines retire in the 2020s, and asking the Navy to report back on a plan to support clandestine SOF undersea mobility requirements through multiple means going forward.
  • An amendment proposed by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) requesting a briefing from the Secretary of Defense on U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including the benefits and disadvantages of signing the treaty.
  • An amendment proposed by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) inquiring about the Navy’s advanced flight control software called Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Techniques (MAGIC CARPET), and asking for a briefing on how the software that helps pilots land on a carrier would affect workload, training requirements and cost.
  • A provision in the bill asking about F-35B integration on amphibious ships and requesting a report detailing “the F-35B deployment schedule, the proposed amphibious ship modernization plan, and the proposed integrated communications architecture that is being developed to support F-35B.”
  • A provision in the bill notes interest in the Navy’s Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO), a 57mm guided projectile that could be used on the LCS, and requests information on what it would take to achieve initial operational capability by 2019.
  • A provision in the bill requiring the Defense Secretary to evaluate various missile systems that could be used with an anti-air warfare capability at each Aegis Ashore site – the Aegis Combat System has an anti-air capability but the Aegis Ashore sites are not currently configured to make use of that. The secretary would also have to report on the ballistic missile and air threat against the homeland and against Guam and the efficacy of deploying Aegis Ashore in those locations, and the ability to turn the Aegis Ashore test site at the Pacific Missile Range Facility into an operational site.

Among the items the committee ordered the Navy or Defense Department to take action on are:

  • An amendment by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) directs the Pentagon to designate a senior official who will oversee all development and demonstration of directed energy weapons for DoD.
  • An amendment by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) directs the establishment of a joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) program, with the Navy as the executive agent that will coordinate and integrate research, development and procurement efforts across the DoD.
  • An amendment by Forbes that prohibits the Navy from performing any ship overhaul, repair or maintenance work that lasts more than six months at a foreign yard.

  • Fred Z in Ann Arbor

    What’s likely to happen to this in the Senate? Is this all going to be fully funded at the end of the day?

    • GJohnson


  • sferrin

    *sigh* It’d need to hit $683 million to hit the equivalent of FY1988’s defense budget.

    • bobbymike34

      Or about $1.1 Trillion to equal percentage of GDP or percentage of the federal budget during the height off the Reagan build -up.

      Also an equivalent strategic weapons budget of around $120 billion/annum (compared to $35B today) would be nice.

  • BudgetGeek

    We have had “Reagan-era” defense spending for most of the last decade. Where it has differed from that era is that far more of it is in O&M and not Procurement. That’s what happens when you have a hot war instead of a cold one.

    • taxman

      Why not just go one step further and bring back 2 battleships and modernize again. Then park each one off each of the the coasts of North Korea to send a clear message don’t f**k with us.

      • Kingfish

        Big price to pay just to deal with a pissant dictator. Much as I love the BBs their time is long gone.

        • taxman

          But they will still send a clear unmistakable message to the pissant

  • Curtis Conway

    The $415 million for four C-40A transport planes, two each for the Navy and Marine Corps is very good. Finally . . . the Marines will have decent logistical support aircraft safe to fly over large expanses of water like the Pacific.

    Increased tempo in ship building with emphasis on subs, tankers, Expeditionary Mobile Bases, modifying LPD/LSD (new LPD-17 LX(R) derivative) with VLS installation, and looking at a real frigate (National Security Cutter or Short Burke based?) is very encouraging. What is discouraging is Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) introducing the amendment to defend an Alabama shipyard that will most likely not be selected as the LCS winner of the down-select. This amendment is understandable, but untoward, and works against recovery of fleet strength, and therefore National Security. In my opinion the LCS as a surface combatant is a waste of material and money, but if we are to have one it must have the least detrimental effect on the fleet’s O&M budget. Keeping two disparate designs in the fleet is a logistical, and exceedingly expensive, mistake. Greater survivability of this platform would be served by making the new 3D radar TRS-4D installation with the four array face non-rotating antenna, or just schedule them for the 9-RMA AN/SPY-6(V) SPY Radar installation.

    Given operational and logistical concerns long term, and the fleet moving into a more net-centric combat environment, a standard advanced 3D non-rotating radar for every platform should be investigated. The AN/SPY-6(V) has a scalable antenna, with standard modular construct of support equipment, that can go on any size vessel, providing the needed fire control capability for detection, tracking, and direction against supersonic cruise missiles, and all that data to the greater FORCEnet. If a surface ship is to have missiles this is a necessary requirement. Expansion of SPY-6 usage should be investigated, and used on as many vessels as possible. Capability, commonality, maintenance and training requirements across the fleet should be included in this assessment. Expanded use could significantly reduce cost for each installation via Block or MYP buy authority for this program.

    As for SSGN replacement the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) is the obvious answer, and ready solution to this problem whose development should be funded.

    Ratification of UNCLOS is the most idiotic idea I have ever heard. The United States already follows its precepts, and enforces its standards, but we do not constrain ourselves with strict adherence which plays into the hands of potential adversaries. No nation on the planet carries the responsibilities of the United States in the defense of Democracy. Potential adversaries will use UNCLOS provisions as instruments against us in the future, and rightfully so if we sign the convention, therefore we should not bind ourselves with them.

    Asking about F-35B integration on amphibious ships is good, but expansion of the investigation is required. With the introduction of expensive VSTOL/STOVL aircraft (V-22/F-35B) across the fleet we should prepare every flight deck to support their operations to provide a ‘Ready Deck of Opportunity’ for these valuable aircraft during an Emergency. Further, requirements for F-35B operations on CVNs must be investigated. One does not just land STOVL aircraft on a flight deck. Preparations, procedures and shipboard modifications are required. Equipment relocation, flight deck coating (Thermion) installation, flight deck markings, and recovery procedures are required at a minimum.

    The ALaMO is good, but if the LCS/Frigate is to be effective a larger shell with more explosive potential is needed, in my humble opinion. The 76 mm would be better, and numerous guided projectiles are available for it today.

    The ability for an Aegis Ashore system to defend itself from air attack is inherent in the design, and for it to do otherwise, or not be able to defend itself, is almost laughable. The solution is a software build and weapon launchers. That is what Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD) is all about. If that capability is not to go overseas . . . so be it, but for this to be turned into a more complex equation for U.S. forces . . . someone is trying to get rich. Make the software build changes, or just install an IAMD BL 9.(X) build and give the site some launchers. A dozen Mk 41 VLS with four Strike Length (SM-6 standard), eight Standard Length (four 4 – SM-6 without the boosters) and 16 – Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) will suffice, unless the Navy wants more. If I were to be really sarcastic I would suggest the Aegis Ashore have the same AAW capability the LCS has (SeaRAM).

    This ‘Senior Official who will oversee all development and demonstration of directed energy weapons for DoD’ should work closely with the new Electronic Warfare (EW) Executive Committee. I suggest he assume an overall responsibility for Passive Combat System Elements as well to be developed and coordinated for all land & air forces, and surface vessels including automatic hemispherical surveillance systems similar to SIMONE (Ship Infrared Monitoring, Observation and Navigation Equipment) for early detection and tracking of surface and aerial threats for designation to the direction systems, and perhaps the Directed Energy Weapon itself which is a very capable EO/IR device.

    I support the establishment of a joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) program.

    • GJohnson

      Agree with much of what you stated. Didn’t realize that the Marine Corps is getting F-35C as well as F-35B. Agree with VLS on Amphibs. Disagree with the presumption that the Freedom Class (with another LockMart lobbying campaign) has to be the winner. Can’t keep buying vessels that break down. Disagree with 76mm vs. 57mm. No one engages in gun battles, so it’s a moot point – they’re better against air targets anyway. Agree with AEGIS comments, and the rest.

      • Curtis Conway

        The US Navy and Marine Corps signed an agreement that obligated the USMC to buy 80 F-35C aircraft to replace their Super Hornets. I believe this to be a mistake. The Large Deck Aviation Platform (LHA-6 Class) with a contingent of 18 F-35Bs will be a significant force with which to contend, and requires development of the AEW&C aircraft to support these operations (EV-22/Merlin AEW Helo?). Capabilities of the F-35 Combat System both current and future, are the compelling elements in this argument. Manning what would in effect be small carriers the Marine Corps would necessarily have more F-35Bs once relieved of the requirement to buy F-35C(s). No money in the budget for that. However, if one were developed there are a half dozen navies that could use the VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C capability to support their naval aviation platforms, as the E-2 Hawkeye has for decades. If the Ramparts of Freedom are to be adequately defended, greater situational awareness will be required by all our Allies. This capability provides a synergistic effect that is hard to beat.

        As for the LCS, when we start loading down these seaframes to support the FF conversion, then send them into combat, any aluminum present from the main deck down will be the seeds of that platforms destruction. I have been on a Man-o-War at sea with a fire on board and had to deal with aluminum in the superstructure that just melts and goes away. More than once the crew mused about how the fire went all the way to the steel deck where the fire was eventually stopped. If the hull had been aluminum we would have been in the Atlantic swimming, or becoming fish food. Not a decent prospect for any surface combatant. At any rate PROTECTIONISM by a sitting member of congress is untoward and should not be tolerated or permitted under any circumstances [PERIOD]. What will be will be, and that’s it. What’s best for National Defense is what is best, not what is best for anyone’s district. THAT is one of the problems in Defense Procurement, and reeks of establishment Old-boy Network politics, and what is the matter with our current system.

        The 76 mm shell possesses more internal capacity for explosive and guidance. When firing against anti-ship cruise missiles coming at you the explosive capability of that shell determines its destructive radius and therefore potential. I wanted 5” in the platform, but there is no space and weight for that. However, there is for a 76 mm in place of the 57 mm. Today, multiple 76 mm guided projectiles exist in Allied Navies. I would prefer to see smart projectiles for RF, EM, and IR [selectable] coming out the barrel.

  • Lazarus

    Given that the Reagan-era was over 30 years in the past, a defense budget at that level does not buy nearly what it did. Additional weapon systems and funding may be welcome, but in the absence of an organizing strategy such as the 1980’s Maritime strategy and a defined, supporting force structure, they represent an uncoordinated response. The 350 ship Navy concept is just a number; unconnected to any strategic analysis. A combination of capabilities and threat-based analysis should point the way to a larger fleet and not just a number. The 600 ship Navy of the 1980’s was, by contrast, well supported by strategy and force structure analysis. The USN bought ships it needed (cruisers, carriers, amphibs, etc) and rejected those not supported by analysis (sea control ship, PHM’s in numbers, nuclear strike cruisers.)

    This wrangling over the defense budget also suggests that the Goldwater Nichols idea of having the CJCS, as the responsible military authority proposing the right expenditure, is finished. The defense budget is now one of political arguments with responsible military assessment absent.

  • vincedc

    I bet someone worked long and hard to make that MAGIC CARPET acronym fit. It looks like they made up the acronym first, then tried to find words to fit it. Time to simply these system name.