Congress Announces Appropriations Deal

Lawmakers on Dec. 16 struck a deal for a $1.4 trillion bipartisan, bicameral spending plan to fund the government through fiscal 2020, including $695.1 billion for the Defense Department.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on Dec. 17, with the Senate to follow later in the week. If passed, it would avert a government shutdown before current government funding runs out on Dec. 20.

The deal represents a $19.5 billion increase over enacted funding for 2019, and includes a 3.1 percent pay increase for all military personnel, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee summary. The total breaks down as $622.6 billion in base funding, $70.6 billion in overseas contingency operations funding, and $1.8 billion in emergency funding.

When combining funds in the base and OCO defense accounts and separate military construction money across various appropriations bills, the spending legislation matches the total defense spending included in the $738 billion fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act proposal. Appropriators also added $8 billion in emergency defense funds that falls outside congressional spending caps.

The appropriations agreement provides the Air Force 14 more F-35As on top of the 48 jets requested. The service also would receive an additional $156 million in F-35 advance procurement funding for fiscal 2021. The deal also adds six more F-35s for the Navy and Marine Corps, for a total increase of $1.87 billion for F-35s. In all, the Pentagon would be funded for 98 F-35s of all variants in 2020.

The Air Force would receive $2.1 billion for 12 KC-46s, $850.5 million for 12 combat rescue helicopters, $215 million for MQ-9s, and $730 million for eight C-130Js to be assigned to the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. It provides $985.5 million for eight F-15EXs, two of which are for testing, and $210 million to invest in light attack aircraft.

Appropriators were not so generous in their investment in the new Space Force, which Congress authorized in the 2020 NDAA, providing just $40 million for the initial standup, or slightly more than half the administration’s $72 million request. The drop “reflects both the scaling back of large bureaucracy associated with” the original proposal, and delays in enacting both the authorization and appropriation bills needed for the establishment of the service, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in a statement.

For space operations, the bill also includes $1.2 billion for the full National Security Space Launch request. The language also creates a new funding line for Tactically Responsive Launch “to ensure the Air Force devotes adequate resources to venture class launch services.”

Lawmakers will provide ample funding for research and development of future aircraft, including $3 billion for the B-21 Raider next-generation bomber program and $960 million for Next-Generation Air Dominance. For nuclear weapons recapitalization, the Air Force would receive $557 million to fund the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and $713 million for the Long Range Standoff Weapon program.

Other fully funded replacement programs include the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization and UH-1N Huey replacement.

The bill also includes:

  • $1.77 billion for disaster response at Tyndall AFB, Fla.; Offutt AFB, Neb.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and NAS China Lake, Calif.
  • $34 million for directed energy and hypersonic research.
  • $251 million for cleanup to address PFAS contamination at military bases, equal to last year’s amount.