Congress Passes FY18 Defense Authorization Bill
(Source: Forecast International; issued Nov 20, 2017)
WASHINGTON --- Congress passed an FY18 defense authorization bill that includes $700 billion in discretionary funding for national defense. The total includes $605.5 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, $20.7 billion for defense programs in the Department of Energy, and $7.9 billion for other defense-related activities.

Total national security spending in the base portion of the budget would amount to $634.2 billion, which is around $85.2 billion above the $549 billion limit under the Budget Control Act.

The legislation also contains another $65.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations that is not subject to BCA spending caps. The House passed the bill on November 14 by a vote of 356-70, and the Senate passed the legislation by voice vote on November 16.

Congress has authorized an increase of $20.9 billion for military procurement in FY18, and $2.3 billion for research, development, test and evaluation. These figures do not include acquisition funding from a November 2017 supplemental budget request that has also been integrated into the bill.

The legislation increases airpower for all the major services, adding funding for an additional 20 F-35s, 10 F/A-18s, six V-22s, 10 AH-64s, eight CH-47s, five UH-60s, seven AH-1Zs, one HC-130J, six MC-130Js, four KC-130Js, two KC-46As, three P-8As, and six MQ-1 extended-range Gray Eagles. Lawmakers also approved a seven-year multiyear procurement deal for the remaining planned V-22 aircraft.

Lawmakers support the Navy's effort to build a fleet of 355 ships, and the legislation adds funding for an additional DDG 51 destroyer, one Littoral Combat Ships, one LPD 17 or LX(R) amphibious ship, one Expeditionary Sea Base, and five LCAC 100s (also known as Ship-to-Shore Connectors). The bill authorizes the Navy to enter into multiyear contracts for up to 15 destroyers and 13 Virginia class submarines. The multiyear agreements being drafted by the Navy currently only cover 10 destroyers and 10 submarines.

The bill also adds funding for 29 Abrams M1A2 SEP v3 tanks, 33 M2A4 Bradley vehicles, 35 M88A2 Hercules recovery vehicles, 75 ATACM missiles, 60 RAM Block II missiles, 576 Stinger missiles, and 373 Javelin missiles. Another $1.7 billion is added for cyber warfare efforts.

The bill supports the White House's supplemental budget request, which focused largely on missile defense programs. The legislation provides an additional 16 SM-3 Block IB interceptors, 50 THAAD interceptors, and 147 Patriot MSE missiles. The bill also authorizes up to 28 additional Ground-Based Interceptors, and requires the secretary of defense to develop a plan for increasing the overall number of interceptors from 44 to 104.

Compared to the FY18 request, the authorization bill increases the active Army end strength by 7,500 troops, plus an additional 500 Guard and 500 Reserve troops. The Marine Corps end strength is also increased by 1,000 Marines.

Lawmakers included acquisition reform provisions that aim to provide additional oversight for service contracts, facilitate commercial-off-the-shelf procurement process, transition part of the contract audit process to the private sector, and streamline acquisition regulations. The bill does not support a House proposal to establish a Space Corps within the Air Force, but it does call for a cyber posture review to clarify the U.S. cyber defense policy and strategy.

Despite the significant funding increase provided in the authorization bill, the Pentagon is not guaranteed to actually see this money. In fact, the FY18 spending will likely fall well below the mark set by the House and Senate armed services committees. In the end, it is up to congressional appropriators to determine how much funding the military receives, and those appropriators remain constrained by the Budget Control Act.

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