U.S. Congressional defense committees have been hard at work marking up their versions of FY24 defense legislation. Thus far, we’ve seen drafts released from the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations Committee, as well as an initial summary of a markup from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The House Armed Services Committee passed its version of the FY24 defense authorization bill Thursday by a vote of 58-1. A full vote on the House floor is expected in July, at which point difference would need to be worked out with the pending Senate version of the bill.
The House legislation authorizes $841.5 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Pentagon, which is in line with the president’s budget request. The recent debt deal locked in that level of defense spending in FY24, but several lawmakers have been calling for a supplemental spending deal to circumvent the spending caps.
The bill adds an LPD amphibious transport dock that the Marine Corps included on its list of unfunded priorities. The Navy had proposed pausing production of the LPD class, despite pressure from the Marines to bolster the amphibious fleet. The legislation allows the retirement of six warships requested by the Navy, but it blocks service’s effort to retire three LSD amphibious warships and two cruisers. The committee recommends establishing the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N) as a program of record, adding around $196 million for the program. The administration has been trying to scrap the program, and service officials said it would cost some $31 billion to develop warheads for the SLCM-N. The committee’s version of the bill also adds two P-8A maritime patrol aircraft for the Navy.
The bill would authorize the Air Force to continue retiring A-10 aircraft. Last year, Congress allowed the service to retire 21 A-10s, and the House version of the policy bill would allow another 42 to be removed from service. The HASC has recommended reversing the Air Force’s decision to scrap the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), which is developing alternate engine options for the F-35. In its original request, the Air Force said the engine program was too costly and would eat into airframe procurement. Lockheed Martin recently expressed support for AETP, saying a more powerful engine would increase the F-35’s longevity. Pratt & Whitney, which as an AETP prototype, has been pushing its own upgrade plan for the F-35’s existing F135 engine. Meanwhile, the proposed bill zeroes out funding for the Air Force’s hypersonic Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), which suffered several recent test failures.
For the Army, the bill would add four CH-47F helicopters, 20 upgraded Stryker vehicles, six Paladin howitzers, and 13 upgraded M1 Abrams tanks. Lawmakers call for the Comptroller General to analyze and report on the Army’s air and missile defense programs and long-range precision fires programs. The committee also wants additional information on the service’s tactical wheeled vehicle requirements and efforts to ensure the tank fleet is continually modernized and improved.
The Senate Armed Services Committee announced Friday that it passed its version of the FY24 defense authorization bill by a vote of 24-1. The committee considered 445 amendments and adopted 286 amendments. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
The legislation authorizes $886.3 billion for national security, which is in line with the president’s request and the spending limits established by the recent debt ceiling deal. That figure includes $844.3 billion for the Department of Defense. However, the committee says the spending limits are too low and urges the president to send an emergency supplemental funding request to Congress to address growing national security concerns. Specifically, the committee wants to see additional funding in FY24 for Ukraine, increased munitions production, and additional naval vessels and combat vehicles.
For the Army, the bill adds funding to improve the performance of UH-60, AH-64, and CH-47 helicopters, as well as funding for the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle – Binocular (ENVG-B) and development of the Multi-spectral Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Net System (ULCANS).
The legislation includes requirements for various briefings or analyses on Army acquisition programs, including a provision calling for the service to update its tactical wheeled vehicle strategy every five years. Lawmakers are also seeking briefings on the service’s small arms modernization efforts, UH-60 modernization, joint counter-small unmanned aerial systems (C-sUAS) efforts, and plans to develop 40mm programmable airburst munitions. The legislation also directs a review of Army air and missile defense and long-range fires modernization programs. The Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) is mentioned, and the committee asked for an analysis of the PrSM industrial base and an assessment of options for accelerating production and reaching annual procurement of 400 munitions. The Army is also encouraged to accelerate its directed energy programs. The bill requires Army to coordinate with the Navy on the Army’s developmental heavy watercraft, which would be a larger version of the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) that is replacing Vietnam-era landing craft.
The battle over amphibious warships continues, and the Senate bill authorizes $1.9 billion to fully fund the amphibious warship LPD 33, which was included on the Marine Corps’ unfunded priorities list. The House Armed Services Committee also supports an additional LPD, which the Navy had removed from its FY24 budget request. Further, the Navy is directed to provide quarterly briefings on the operational status of the amphibious warship fleet, and the service must submit a 30-year shipbuilding plan that maintains 31 amphibious ships. The committee also wants to block the Navy from retiring three amphibious ships and one Aegis cruiser in FY24. The bill directs the service to develop a plan for a second shipyard to produce constellation class frigates, and asks the Navy to draft a plan to adopt unmanned surface vessels. The Navy has been testing USVs for several years, but the service has not finalized how they will be integrated into fleet operations.
The bill adds funding for the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N), which was terminated in the FY24 request. The SASC says the weapon is needed “to address China’s nuclear breakout and Russia’s continued aggression.” The House also resurrected SLCM-N in its version of the defense policy bill. The Senate legislation adds funding for W80-4 ALT warhead development in support of the SLCM-N program.
The Air Force is authorized to move ahead with retiring 42 A-10 aircraft in FY24, mirroring the House version of the bill. However, the Senate would block retirement of any RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft. Lawmakers want the Air Force to brief them on activities related to collaborative combat aircraft (CCA), which is a family of planned drones intended to operate alongside manned fighter aircraft. The Air Force is also directed to submit a general plan for modernizing the fighter force structure. The bill directs the use of middle tier acquisition authority to accelerate fielding of satellites for Tranches 1-3 of the Space Development Agency’s multi-layer satellite constellation. The bill also adds funding for the Air Force’s LGM-35A Sentinel ballistic missile and for 5G interference mitigation on the Presidential Aircraft Fleet.
The policy bill includes numerous provisions aimed at fostering relationships and bolstering capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. For example, the bill calls for a plan to enhance security cooperation with Japan, and it establishes the “Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative” with allies and partners, including Australia, Japan, and India. The bill also extends a cyber cooperation program with Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, and expands the program to include Philippines and Malaysia. Lawmakers have also asked the Pentagon to brief them on the ability of the joint force to conduct contested logistics in the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.
The committee recommends adding funding for the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) operational experimentation testbed, as well as various quantum computing projects. The bill calls for a report on current and future hypersonic threats and defenses, and it orders the DoD to deliver a briefing on accelerating development and deployment of the Glide Phase Interceptor, with an objective of achieving initial operational capability by 2030. Funding is also added for the Hypersonic Targets and Countermeasures program.
The legislation requires the DoD to submit a briefing on establishing an air and missile defense architecture for the Middle East to defend against threats from Iran groups backed by Tehran. Separately, the committee adds funding for Marine Corps ground-based air defense efforts.
One provision in the bill expresses a sense of the Senate that the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) is vital to the defense acquisition process. This provision is a direct response to efforts by the HASC to eliminate the office. The bill also includes several provisions aimed at increasing Foreign Military Sales contracts.
The provisions described above are merely recommendations from the SASC. A conference version of the bill must be negotiated with House lawmakers, at which point a final defense authorization bill would head to the president for signing. Any of the provisions described here could be removed or altered during conferenced negotiations.
The House Appropriation Committee passed its version of the FY24 defense appropriations bill June 22 by a vote of 34-24. For Fiscal Year 2024, the bill provides $886 billion for national security spending, in line with the recent debt ceiling agreement that capped spending at the president’s request level. That topline figure includes $826.45 billion in new discretionary spending, for the Pentagon, which is $285.87 million over the request and $28.71 billion – or 3.6% – over the FY23 enacted level. The Pentagon figure excludes military construction, which is funded in a separate appropriations bill.
The legislation recommends cutting $4 billion for procurement programs, much of which is due to a $2.5 billion reduction for missiles across the services. Included in that $2.5 billion figure is $1.9 billion for bulk missile buys, designated as “economic order quantity” funding intended to reduce unit costs when buying a higher volume of equipment. The DoD sought multiyear procurement authority for several missile programs in its FY24 budget request to help replenish weapons donated to Ukraine. The bill would also prevent the Navy from retiring any of its Littoral Combat ships, as well as a pair of amphibious dock landing ships (LSDs).
The bill adds $2 billion for research and development, including an extra $983.1 million for the Army, $768.6 million for the Navy, and $696.7 million for Defense-Wide programs. Those increases are partially offset by a $360.2 million cut for the Space Force, as well as reductions of $85.5 million and $46 million for the Air Force and the Defense-Wide operational test & evaluation accounts, respectively. The bill adds $150 million for the F-35 Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), which the Air Force tried to cancel in its FY24 request. However, the bill defunds the service’s hypersonic Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW).
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