WASHINGTON - Lawmakers Thursday unveiled a $578 billion spending bill to keep the U.S. armed forces operating through September as President Donald Trump has vowed to add billions more for what he’s described as a depleted American military.
The legislation, crafted by House and Senate negotiators from both parties, tracks the funding levels for Pentagon procurement, operation and maintenance, and research and development programs authorized by the annual defense policy bill that former President Barack Obama signed into law in December.
The full House is scheduled to meet next week to consider the defense spending bill for the 2017 fiscal year. Once the bill clears the House, the legislation moves to the Senate for a vote.
“We’ve tried to make the best decisions possible, within funding limitations, to support national security priorities like modernization of aging equipment and a pay increase for all military personnel,” said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the Appropriations Committee chairman.
Trump likely to add $30 billion
Trump is expected to deliver to Congress in the next few weeks a supplement to the 2017 spending bill that would boost the total by as much as $30 billion. For the 2018 budget year, which begins October 1, Trump is seeking a $54 billion increase in the Pentagon’s budget.
The Pentagon and other federal agencies are currently running under a stopgap spending bill that expires April 28. Congress approved the temporary measure to avoid a government shutdown late last year.
The 2017 defense spending bill includes $516 billion for basic military requirements, which covers everything from the purchase of bombs and bullets to troop training. Nearly $62 billion is included in the bill to pay for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
The defense authorization bill signed by Obama totaled $611 billion, while the appropriations package is roughly $33 billion less because the defense spending bill doesn’t include money for military construction and nuclear weapons research. Those programs are included in separate appropriations legislation.
Commanders urge long-term budgeting
Senior U.S. military commanders have pleaded with lawmakers to avoid the frequent use of stopgap spending bills, which are known in Washington-speak as continuing resolutions. Under these short-term agreements, the Pentagon’s budget is set at the previous year’s level and the military services are barred from starting new programs.
The spending bill also provides $980 million to train and equip foreign forces to combat the Islamic State extremist group.
Another $150 million is allotted in the bill to supply Ukraine with lethal and nonlethal aid to counter Russian aggression. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its incursions into eastern Ukraine have drawn widespread condemnation in Europe and the United States along with a raft of economic penalties.