House keeps armed forces operating, approves $578 billion

F-35 Joint strike fighter
F-35 Joint Strike Fighte [Photo Credit: AAP Image | Lockheed Martin, Matthew Short]

The full U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the fiscal year 2017 defense appropriations bill, with the support of the entire Alabama delegation, with a bipartisan 371-48 vote. In total, the bill includes $577.9 billion in funding, which is an increase of $5.2 billion over last year’s funding levels.

“The bill closely reflects the Defense Appropriations bill the House passed last summer, and is consistent with the final National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017,” according to a statement from the House Appropriations Committee. “The legislation funds critical national security needs, including military operations and readiness programs, as well as health and quality-of-life programs for our troops and military families.”

The bill has several big wins for the Yellowhammer State, including funding for three more Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), which are built in part by Austal USA, which employs over 4,000 people at their shipyard in Mobile. It contains $8.2 billion for the procurement of 74 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and the Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing is on the short list for being assigned this next-generation fighter jet. The bill also contains a strong budget for Army Aviation, including $187 million for 28 Lakota helicopters, which are the primary aircraft used for training at the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker. Funding for key R&D priorities for the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville have aso been increased

Additional bill highlights include:

  • Rejects the Obama Administration’s proposed troop level reductions that would cut as many as 36,000 servicemen and women from the Armed Forces;
  • Fully funds a 2.1% pay raise for the military personnel;
  • Provides for 1,305,900 active-duty troops and 813,200 Guard and Reserve troops;
  • Provides funding for an additional 1,000 active duty Army soldiers, 1,000 Army National Guard soldiers, 1,000 Army Reserve soldiers, and 1,000 active duty Marines;
  • Funds ongoing military operations against ISIS and other terrorist organizations;
  • Provides funding for 13 Navy ships, 74 F-35 aircraft, 61 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, and other key military programs;
  • Includes funding to address readiness shortfalls and much-needed maintenance; and
  • Boosts funding for research and development of new military technology.

Here’s what the Alabama delegation had to say about their votes:

Bradley Byrne_YesAlabama 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne:

Ensuring our military men and women have the funding and resources to do their job is a fundamental responsibility of Congress. By passing the Defense Appropriations Act today, the House is further reaffirming our strong, bipartisan commitment to supporting the U.S. military.

Working with my House and Senate colleagues, I am proud we were able to secure funding for the construction of three more Littoral Combat Ships. These ships are a key component of the Navy’s fleet, and the additional funding is vital to the future of the Austal shipyard in Mobile.

I call on the Senate to quickly pass this funding bill and send it to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

Martha Roby_YesAlabama 2nd District U.S. Rep. Martha Roby:

I am proud to represent a district that is home to both Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. I’m pleased to report that this bill contains a strong budget for Army Aviation, including $187 million for 28 Lakota helicopters. It also contains an increase of almost $450 million for the Air Force’s cyber security efforts.

This Appropriations bill also contains funding for the procurement of 74 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The Montgomery-based 187th Fighter Wing is on the short list for being assigned this next-generation fighter jet, and our Alabama congressional delegation is working together to make the case to the Air Force why this special unit is an ideal fit.

Mo Brooks_YesAlabama 5th District U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks:

Importantly, H.R.1301 includes a 2.1% pay raise for our service men and women, reverses the Obama Administration’s drawdown of troops, and increases funding for Israeli Cooperative Programs by $455 million.  In total, $600.7 million is provided for the Israeli Cooperative Programs, including $332 million for equipment procurement and $269 million for research and development.  An additional $43 million is included for Israeli anti-tunneling efforts.

I’m very pleased key priorities for the Redstone Arsenal community have been increased – notably high energy laser research, cybersecurity research for a variety of Army platforms and integration of systems, and the Army’s important continued investment in Future Vertical Lift.

Check back, this article will be updated as more statements are available.