Military Budget to Swell Under Bill 09/19 06:10
The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping defense policy bill that
would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S. armed forces on
track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping defense
policy bill that would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S.
armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the
decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senators passed the legislation by an 89-8 vote Monday. The measure
authorizes $700 billion in military spending for the budget year that begins
Oct. 1, expands U.S. missile defenses in response to North Korea's growing
hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed.
The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but
President Donald Trump hasn't threatened to veto it. The bill helps him honor a
pledge to rebuild an American military that he said had become depleted on
former President Barack Obama's watch.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other national security hawks have insisted
the military branches are at risk of losing their edge in combat without a
dramatic influx of money to repair shortfalls in training and equipment.
An animated McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman, bemoaned the
limits imposed on military spending by both Democrats and Republicans. He said
the rash of training accidents and crashes --- since mid-July, nearly 100
service members have been killed or injured in close to a dozen mishaps --- can
be linked to the budget cuts.
"My friends, more of our men and women in uniform are now being killed in
totally avoidable training accidents and routine operations than by our enemies
in combat," McCain said. "Where is the outrage about this? Where is our sense
of urgency to deal with this problem?"
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said senior military leaders are taking a close
look at whether strict budget constraints are to blame.
Approved by the Armed Services Committee by a 27-0 vote in late June, the
overall Senate bill provides $640 billion for core Pentagon operations, such as
buying weapons and paying troops, and another $60 billion for wartime missions
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Trump's budget request sought $603
billion for basic functions and $65 billion for overseas missions.
With North Korea's nuclear program a growing threat to the U.S. and its
allies, the bill includes $8.5 billion to strengthen U.S. missile and defense
systems. That's $630 million more than the Trump administration sought for
those programs, according to a committee analysis.
North Korea last week conducted its longest-ever test flight of a ballistic
missile, firing an intermediate-range weapon over U.S. ally Japan into the
northern Pacific Ocean. The launch signaled both defiance of its rivals and a
significant technological advance.
The legislation directs the Defense Department to deploy up to 14 additional
ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, an increase that will expand
to 58 the number of interceptors designed to destroy incoming warheads. The
department also is tasked with finding a storage site for as many as 14 other
spare interceptors, and senators envision an eventual arsenal of 100 with
additional missile fields in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
The White House, in a statement issued earlier this month, called the order
for more interceptors "premature" given the Pentagon's ongoing review of
missile defense programs.
Despite the push for the additional billions in military spending, major
hurdles need to be cleared before all the extra money materializes. Lawmakers
will have to work out a deal that lifts the caps on federal agency budgets,
including the Pentagon's, mandated by a 2011 law. Congress has passed temporary
relief from the limits before, but senior military officials have urged for the
law to be repealed altogether.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he voted against the defense bill because the
measure "blows the budget caps by nearly $83 billion." Corker, who chairs the
Foreign Relations Committee, also said the overseas missions account is
"repeatedly abused" to pay for normal operations. A self-described fiscal
conservative, Corker is weighing whether to run for a third term.
As their House counterparts did, the Senate bill rejects Mattis' plan to
launch a new round of base closings starting in 2021. He told lawmakers in June
that closing excess installations would save $10 billion over a five-year
period. Mattis said the savings could be used to acquire four nuclear
submarines or dozens of jet fighters. But military installations are prized
possessions in states and lawmakers refused to go along.
The bill allots $10.6 billion for 94 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which is
two dozen more than Trump requested. The bill also provides $25 billion to pay
for 13 ships, which is $5 billion and five ships more than the Trump sought.