(Adds national defense topline in eighth paragraph and additional legislation details starting in 12th paragraph.)
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US defense spending would soar by $45 billion next year under a Senate proposal, dealing a rebuke to President Joe Biden’s budget blueprint. Democrats and Republicans alike said Biden’s request failed to take into account rising inflation amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and strategic competition with China.
The Senate Armed Services Committee agreed on a bipartisan basis to the defense authorization boost for fiscal 2023 in the annual policy measure, panel leaders Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters Thursday.
The bulk of the increase likely will go to the Pentagon—which requested $773 billion for the year starting Oct. 1—as it makes up the majority of national defense spending.
Lawmakers are wrangling over how high national security spending should go to surpass US inflation this year during deliberations on defense policy and appropriations legislation.
The Pentagon’s inflation calculations are at the heart of a dispute between Republicans and some Democrats over whether Biden’s request would meet the surge in costs seen in recent months, or shortchange national security. Small changes in inflation can have massive effects on long-term pay, as well as forecasts for weapons contracts and operations and maintenance.
“It’s everything I hoped for,” said Inhofe, the Armed Services ranking member, who introduced the amendment to increase the defense budget during closed-door deliberations. He’s retiring at the end of this Congress and the Senate’s defense authorization bill will be named after him, according to panel Chairman Reed.
The authorization bill also covers defense-related programs at the Department of Energy. Other agencies that deal with national security don’t fall under the panel’s jurisdiction.
Biden requested a total $813 billion for national security programs in 2023; the Armed Services panel covers about $803 billion of that total. The bill’s topline authorization would rise to $847 billion, according to Reed. Total national defense spending would be $857.6 billion if the Senate proposal makes it through Congress and becomes law.
The increase was necessary, Reed said, to address not only inflation but also security assistance for Ukraine as it fights against Russian invaders, to build up US munition stocks, and to fund some needed weapons for military services that didn’t make it into the official budget request. The measure also authorizes a 4.6% pay raise for troops and Defense Department civilians, Reed and Inhofe said.
The measure would require the defense chief to deliver additional details on the budgetary effects of inflation with the annual submission of the president’s budget.
The legislation would boost the Ukraine Security Assistance fund to $800 million in fiscal 2023. It also includes an authorization of $1 billion for the National Defense Stockpile to buy strategic and critical minerals in shortfall.
The defense authorization bill would authorize seven additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. The Pentagon requested 61 for next year.
The bill would ban the retirement of F-22 fighter planes, also made by Lockheed, until submission of a detailed written plan for training F-22 air crews while avoiding any degradation in readiness or reduction in combat capability, according to a committee press release.
Lawmakers, however, backed the retirement of some A-10 close-air support planes, as the Air Force had requested.
Lawmakers agreed to authorize multiyear or block-buy contracts for as many as 15 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 10 ship-to-shore connectors, and eight Lewis-class oilers.
They plan to authorize the procurement of eight battle-force ships, including two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines made by General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. But the committee partly rejected the Navy’s plan to scrap nine of 16 Littoral Combat Ships made by Lockheed. The committee wants the Navy to keep five of the nine ships, in line with a proposal in the House this week.
The bill would require US officials to engage with Taiwanese officials to develop and implement a multiyear plan to provide for the acquisition of appropriate defensive capabilities by Taiwan. The officials would also engage in a series of combined trainings, exercises, and planning activities.
In a theme also replicated in the House Armed Services chairman’s mark for fiscal 2023, the Senate panel plans to require the establishment of a Pentagon office to serve as a central point for civilian casualties and other forms of civilian harm resulting from military operations involving US troops. The House version of the bill would require the creation of a commission.
To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org