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House Moves Forward Its Defense Wish-List Authorization

Last updated on Thursday, May 24, 2018

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The House approved a final bill authorizing defense spending for 2019 on Thursday after spending a week deciding, dispersing and declining more than 500 amendments to the bill.

Tom Squitieri, of Talk Media News reports, the vote was 351-66, with the measure approving widely supported ideas such as increasing force strength and paying for modernization and training. The House also wrestled with some thorny amendments that survived a week of raucous committee debate and posturing.


The White House objected to a House draft 2019 NDAA's prohibition on the Air Force cutting the JSTARS recap program. JSTARS technicians work on a thrust reverser on a JSTARS E-8C at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., on Feb. 26, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo.)

The bill would authorize about $717 billion in defense spending, including $616.7 billion for the Pentagon's base budget and $69 billion for an unmonitored war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account that was initially established to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere; an effort to remove authorization for that fund was defeated by a 62-351 vote but the House agreed to require the Pentagon to "provide estimates of enduring costs" of the fund.

The House also rejected by 188 to 226 vote to hold half of the money tagged for development of new low-yield, submarine-launched nuclear warheads until "the Secretary of Defense submits a report assessing the program's impacts on strategic stability and options to reduce the risk of miscalculation," according to the amendment language.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the defense bill Wednesday night. A committee summary of its version is to be released this week.

Its version must be aligned with what the House approved before the bill can be sent to the White House.

The bill passed by the House is an authorization bill. That sets out the priorities and wishlist of Congress. However, the actual money to pay for anything must come from an appropriations bill, which is a separate piece of legislation. Think of the difference akin to writing out a grocery shopping list, then getting the money to go to the store and purchase the items on the list.

It is the appropriations measure that Congress has usually been unable to pass.

White House officials said President Trump generally supports what the House has done with the exception of at least 37 items either included or not included. Those objections include adding an extra new aircraft carrier, not supporting the administration's request for a high-value detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, adding language supporting creating a new numbered air force dedicated to space and a new U.S. Space Command, and prohibiting the Air Force from eliminating the JSTARS recap program.

Much of the authorization had strong bipartisan support, such as increasing the overall size of the military by 15,600 troops and giving service members at 2.6 percent pay raise.

There also was wide support for spending on new equipment, such as for 77 of the still unused F-35 fighter jets, and funding more training operations to a one way to reduce a surge in deadly accidents.

In addition to the extra aircraft carrier, the bill also authorizes two littoral combat ships not sought by the White House.

Among actions agreed to by the full House that underscore the vast range of what members see as defense issues:

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