SASC Approves Policy Bill

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday announced details of its markup of a $602 billion Fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill, which includes $59 billion in overseas contingency operations funds for the wars against ISIS and in Afghanistan. The bill provides a 1.6-percent pay raise for troops and includes a provision requiring women to register for the selective service beginning Jan. 1, 2018. It authorizes $10.5 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter program, of which $8.5 billion will fund the procurement of 63 F-35 strike fighters—six more than the President’s Budget request—including 43 F-35As for the Air Force, 16 F-35Bs, and four F-35Cs. It provides $88 million more than requested for F-16 capability upgrades and authorizes $321 million for the UH-1N helicopter replacement program. Of the $59 billion in war funding, $453 million will be used to buy 24 MQ-9 Reapers. The bill “reduces authorization for the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber by $302 million due to a lower than expected contract award value” and prohibits the retirement of the A-10 Warthog fleet. It also looks to limit US reliance on Russian-made rocket engines for National Security Space Launches by prohibiting DOD from using launch vehicles powered by the RD-180 once the nine Russian rocket engines previously allowed under the Fiscal 2015 and 2016 authorization bills are expended. “With $1.2 billion budgeted from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2021 for the launch replacement effort and $453 million already appropriated in fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2016, there is more than sufficient funding available and budgeted for a replacement propulsion system or launch vehicle and to offset any additional costs required in meeting our assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines,” states a summary of the legislation.