Senate appropriators OK $832 billion spending bill
July 27, 2023
John M. Donnelly
July 27, 2023; Updated 2:47 p.m. By John M. Donnelly, CQ
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved on Thursday a Defense spending bill that would deliver $831.8 billion to military and intelligence programs in fiscal 2024.
The measure’s nearly $832 billion total includes $8 billion in so-called emergency funds. The full allocation comes in at a net $5.1 billion above President Joe Biden’s request and more than $33 billion above the fiscal 2023 enacted level for programs under the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, senators said.
The committee adopted an amendment by Florida Republican Marco Rubio that would block defense dollars from going to institutions that support the Confucius Institute, an educational organization with ties to China’s government.
The committee also adopted a manager’s amendment of relatively noncontroversial proposals but did not immediately make the contents available.
Separate summaries of the bill released by Democrats and Republicans divulged select highlights of the measure, and more information will be available later Thursday when the committee releases the text of the bill and the accompanying report, aides have said.
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in the Democrats' statement that the draft bill “provides important new resources to make sure we maintain our edge as our competitors work to gain ground — with investments in our capabilities in critical regions like the Indo-Pacific and essential modernization efforts.”
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said in the statement that Thursday’s markup was a milestone in the process of enacting the bill.
“I’m committed to securing a budget that invests in our ability to stay ahead of the threat of China, defend our country from foreign adversaries, and take care of our servicemembers and their families,” Tester said.
Tester said he expects the administration to send Congress a supplemental spending request in September.
Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the full committee and the Defense panel, said at the markup she expects the supplemental to cover Ukraine aid, border security and assistance to respond to natural disasters.
“But in the meantime,” Collins said, “I believe we've put together an excellent bill.”
The Senate’s Defense spending bill would fund the 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers that the White House requested, senators said in their statements.
It would also fund all the administration’s proposed multiyear procurement deals for weaponry, they said.
In the area of readiness, the bill would add fully $1.4 billion above Biden’s request to improve active-duty and National Guard units, the statement indicated.
The legislation would allocate more than requested for regional combatant commanders to take on security threats, the senators said.
In particular, this would include an additional $534 million above the president’s request for initiatives in the Indo-Pacific region and $400 million additional for forces serving under U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Southern Command.
The bill would support efforts to deliver supplies to forces in contested theaters of operation in the Pacific region, including $858 million for Army prepositioned stocks, $508 million for Pacific theater joint training exercises and the procurement of two additional used sealift vessels, the committee’s leaders said.
The bill would provide $451 million above the president’s budget request to support defense communities with infrastructure and environmental programs, including funds to bankroll efforts to deal with so-called forever chemicals in water supplies on or near military bases.
The boosts in Army spending above the request include $532 million for an additional 53 Abrams tanks to maintain the production line, the panel said.
The bill would provide $33.3 billion for Navy ships: two destroyers, two attack submarines, two frigates and an oiler.
What’s more, the bill would include advanced procurement money for a destroyer ($1.3 billion) and for an amphibious transport dock ship ($500 million). And it would OK a multiyear procurement deal to build 10 Virginia-class attack submarines.
For Air Force weapons modernization, the measure would deliver $497 million to fully fund the so-called F-35 Engine Core Upgrade and $280 million above the request for future engine technologies.
The funding bill also would add $37 million to accelerate the E-7 Wedgetail program, which is updating airborne early-warning and command and control capabilities.
The bill would add $200 million to "expand the industrial base" for the Air Force’s Ground-based Strategic Deterrent program, the Democrats' statement said, without elaborating.
In addition, the measure would allocate $1.1 billion above the request for the Defense Health Program “to advance research, close gaps, and deliver solutions to improve patient care, develop cures, and support the health and well-being of servicemembers,” Democrats said in their statement. The bill would add $1.7 billion for facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization, senators said.
The bill would include $5.6 billion to bankroll so-called unfunded priorities of the services that did not make the White House budget request, Republicans noted in their statement. Senators inserted $1.5 billion to offset inflation in defense programs, the GOP senators added.
Looking to help U.S. partners and allies, the bill would include $300 million to aid Ukraine — with more on the way in the expected supplemental — plus $500 million in defense assistance for Israel.
The House Appropriations Committee has written a Defense spending measure (HR 4365) that contains $826.4 billion, but the House has yet to act on it.
The page for the draft fiscal 2024 Senate Defense spending bill is here.
First posted July 27, 2023 10:40 a.m
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