Senate Panel Adds $16 Billion for Acquisition Programs

close-up of an Army helicopter in front of blue sky and clouds

The Senate Armed Services Committee continues to support the Army’s CH-47F Block II upgrade.

The Senate Armed Services Committee filed its version of the FY22 defense authorization bill last week, providing additional insight into the details of the $25 billion defense boost recommended by the panel. The committee initially passed its version of the bill in July by a vote of 23-3, and the recent bill filing sets the stage for the amendment process and an eventual vote on the legislation.

The committee recommends adding $11.8 billion for procurement programs and $4.1 billion for research, development, test and evaluation. If approved, these increases would give the Pentagon $144.1 billion for procurement and $116.1 billion for RDT&E in FY22.

Navy procurement funding would increase by $6.7 billion, the largest increase out of all the major services. The bulk of that funding is geared toward aircraft ($2.7 billion) and warships ($2.5 billion). The Navy also sees the largest increase for research and development, gaining $1.1 billion. The Navy would receive additional funding for five F-35Cs, one E-2D, two C-130Js and one KC-130J, two CH-53K helicopters, and two MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles. The committee recommends adding $1.7 billion for a second destroyer, as well as advance procurement funding for a third FY23 destroyer. The service would also receive an additional $250 million in advance procurement funding for the LDP 17 Flight II program, $350 million to accelerate construction of LHA 9, and $270 million for expeditionary fast transports. However, the bill would cut $299.9 million for used sealift vessels because prior-year funds have not been obligated.

The Air Force would see its procurement coffers grow by $3.4 billion in FY22, with $2.9 billion of that total allocated for aircraft. The service would also gain $915.7 million for research and development, not counting another $524.1 million for Space Force RDT&E. The bill adds one F-35A, five F-15EXs, and $75 million to purchase Valkyrie aircraft under the Skyborg program. The legislation would prohibit the Air Force from retiring any A-10 aircraft, and would also prevent the service from reducing the C-130 fleet to below 292 aircraft. The Air Force would also be blocked from retiring any B-1 bombers until the new B-21 is fielded. The bill does allow the divestment of up to 18 KC-135s and 12 KC-10s, but the Air Force would be prevented from pursuing a follow-on tanker until the KC-46’s Remote Vision System is fully operational.

The Senate panel wants to give the Army an additional $1.4 billion for procurement. Nearly half of that figure, some $658 million, is for weapons and combat vehicles. Another $328 million is added for aircraft, along with $281.1 million for ammunition.  The committee recommends bolstering Army research and development funding, particularly for systems that support multi-domain operations. The bill also adds funding for UH-60L and CH-47F Block II helicopters. Another $746 million is added to support enduring combat vehicles. Development funding for enduring combat vehicles is increased as well, including $64 million for Abrams tank improvements and $21 million for Stryker and Bradley active protection systems.

The House has already passed its version of the FY22 defense authorization bill, which also included around $25 billion in additional funding for defense. Both bills would authorize around $740 billion for the Pentagon in FY22, compared to the request of around $715 billion. However, the House bill puts more of that funding into acquisition programs, recommending an extra $14.9 billion for procurement and $6.1 billion for RDT&E. It’s also important to remember that the authorization bills don’t actually dictate how much funding the Pentagon will ultimately receive. That is a job for congressional appropriators. However, the defense increases in the authorization bills do show that there is bipartisan support for increasing the defense topline in FY22.

The House Appropriations Committee did not recommend a defense increase in its markup earlier in the year, and the Senate Appropriations Committee has not marked up its version of the bill. If Senate appropriators follow suit with the armed services committees, then it will be up to conference negotiators to determine the scope of any increase in the final defense spending bill for the year.

The final outcome won’t be known for some time, as Congress will not be able to pass a full budget by the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Lawmakers are currently working out the details of a continuing resolution that will keep the government running into December.

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About Shaun McDougall

Shaun McDougall is an analyst at Forecast International covering the U.S. and Canadian defense markets.

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