WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee handed the Pentagon and US defense sector a victory by surgically protecting weapon programs and authorizing extra war funding — but a showdown with the White House looms.
The committee, in the early hours of April 30, voted to add billions to a list of weapon programs, and signed off on a $495.9 billion base Pentagon budget and an $89.2 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) account.
Its version of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) throws a lifeline to the Air Force’s A-10 attack planes, endorses extra funding for more Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets, and proposes buying more Army National Guard helicopters.
The influential panel made clear it strongly supports the often-troubled F-35 joint strike fighter program. It also threw its weight behind the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, while adding funds for US-Israeli missile defense work.
Analysts said it’s not surprising that in an era of capped defense spending the committee would funnel more dollars to the programs it covets.
“As far as authorization bills go, it’s a win for industry,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting for the Clinton administration. “Industry likes to add up authorization chips so they can say to the appropriators, ‘Look what they promised us.’