The House Armed Service Committee’s topline is more than Biden’s budget request, but less than that of its Senate counterpart
The House Armed Services Committee boosted proposed Pentagon funding for fiscal 2023 by $37 billion, surpassing the White House’s request but still sitting just below the funding level approved by senators last week.
The war in Ukraine, increased aggression from China, and skyrocketing inflation all drove the bipartisan support for the amendment from Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, which passed by an overwhelming 42-17 vote. The amendment would boost Defense Department funding to more than $839 billion, which is $8 billion less than in the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“We need only look to world events in Ukraine, read reports regarding China’s plans and actions in the South China Sea, or simply read the latest headline about Iranian nuclear ambitions and North Korean missile tests, as well as ongoing terrorist threats, in order to see why this funding is necessary,” Golden said Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee markup of the bill.
The extra money would buy eight more F/A-18 jets, five more C-130 cargo planes, and one more frigate than the Biden administration has proposed, and pay to keep five littoral combat ships that the Pentagon wants to retire. It would also add $550 million to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, $3.5 billion to military construction spending, and $2.5 billion to offset the high cost of fuel.
“The amendment funds critically needed priorities from our service chiefs and combatant commanders that were left unfunded by the president’s budget. It adds over $7.3 billion needed to counteract harmful effects of record inflation on the department,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved $817 billion for the Defense Department next year, surpassing the Biden administration's request by $45 billion. The bills will need to pass the House and Senate before negotiators meet to hammer out a compromise topline that will again need to pass Congress to become law.
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said she “applauded” the Senate for the larger increase, and that, while she would support a bigger budget bump, the additional $37 billion made the bill “acceptable,” in part because the funding would pay to keep in service some of the 24 ships the Biden administration proposed cutting in its budget proposal.
“In our current threat environment that we see with Russia’s unprovoked aggression towards Ukraine as well as China’s increased aggression toward Taiwan…it’s time to grow our military, not shrink our military,” Luria said. “I think this $37 billion is a start.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., also supported the amendment “reluctantly,” in part because the Pentagon has been unable to pass an audit and account for where all of its money is going.
“I’ll support this amendment today for its investments in the country and our national security, but I will also be sure to hold the department accountable for every dollar unaccounted for and every dollar wasted,” Sherrill said.
Other Democrats fiercely opposed the proposal, arguing that the Pentagon needs to practice fiscal discipline and that Biden’s proposed $773 billion is sufficient to defend the country..
“Part of me wonders when we’re just going to get the amendment to have a trillion-dollar defense budget, because it seems that’s where we’re going,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said. “If you’re supporting this amendment, you’re basically paving the way to a trillion-dollar defense.”
Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., also said it’s “wild” that Republicans are complaining about inflation at the same time as they’re pushing for a bigger defense budget than the Pentagon said it needs. Instead, she urged Congress to invest in the State Department as well as domestic priorities like education and innovation to better compete with Beijing.
“That is what will determine if we are competitive with China, not whether we have one more LCS,” she said.