House panel unveils $578.6 billion for defence; OKs 2.3 per cent pay raise for military

WASHINGTON – The House panel that decides defence spending unveiled a $578.6 billion blueprint on Tuesday that fully funds a 2.3 per cent pay raise for military men and women, prevents the retirement of the A-10 aircraft that protects ground troops and funds the U.S. fight against terrorism.

The spending bill, which mirrors the broad defence policy bill the House passed last week, is to be considered Wednesday by the defence subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

The bill covers the core defence budget plus $88.4 billion for a war-fighting fund that finances military operations in Afghanistan, the Mideast and elsewhere.

The proposed bill provides money for a 2.3 per cent pay raise instead of 1.3 per cent as requested by the White House. It also provides money to maintain 100 per cent of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing.

“This bill makes the most of a very tight budget, utilizing all resources to ensure that our military remains the best in the world and that they are ready and able to protect all of us from those that wish to do harm,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., subcommittee chairman, said the legislation recognizes growing threats around the world and a need to guarantee that the U.S. military and intelligence communities have the strength and ability to meet the rise of Islamic extremists and other aggressors, including Iran, China, Russia and North Korea.

The bill provides $578.6 billion in discretionary funding — an increase of $24.4 billion above fiscal 2015 enacted level — and $800 million above the president’s request. The $88.4 billion for fighting terrorism and related costs is within the level assumed in the House and Senate budget conference agreement.

Other highlights of the bill include:

—EQUIPMENT: A total of $116.7 billion for equipment and upgrades, which is $12.5 billion above the fiscal 2015 enacted level and $3 billion above the president’s request, to maintain U.S. military readiness. For example, the bill includes: $16.9 billion to procure nine Navy ships, including two DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers and three Littoral Combat Ships. It includes $8.4 billion for various aircraft, helicopters and $55 million for the Israeli defence system known as “Iron Dome.”

—A-10: The bill ensures the A-10 Warthog remains available for close air support to protect ground troops and that the Army National Guard’s force strength does not fall below fiscal 2015 levels. The bill also calls for banning AH-64 Apache helicopters from being transferred from the Army National Guard to the regular Army during fiscal 2016.