CAPITOL HILL: Those nine warships the Navy planned to retire in the face of the budget crunch? Fuggedaboutit. They’re back in, if the Senate Appropriations Committee has anything to say about it.
The Army wants to keep working on tanks? Cool. We got their back.
Helicopters flew the guys who killed Osama bin Laden and have gotten beaten up flying in Afghanistan and Iraq? We’re on it with $700 million to “modernize, replace combat losses, or procure new helicopters.
Patriot PAC-3 missiles, handy in any conflict with Iran, win an additional $194 million.
That ding dong who apparently set the fire on the USS Miami, causing some $500 million in damage? Well, we’re sort of on it, with an extra $150 million in our bill.
“We” are the members of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee and Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman, and his merry crew of cardinals.
The nine Navy ships the service paned to retire before the end of their service lives are mostly cruisers, an increasingly endangered class of ships in today’s fleet. Attacks subs, boomers, destroyers, carriers and LCS all seem immune to cuts. The Navy planned to retire four cruisers in 2013. The next year three cruisers and two dock landing ships would head to the scrap heap or to foreign navies. This will cost “nearly” $2.4 billion to man, operate, equip and modernize these ships,” Sen. Inouye said in his opening remarks.
The House appropriators didn’t go quite as far. They saved three cruisers, perhaps leaving the rest for next year and expecting their shipyard-heavy Senate colleagues to take care of the fourth cruiser.
In a final slap at the Air Force, the bill includes $800 million to keep National Guard and Reserve force structure in place. We won’t go into much detail about how ticked off Congress was about these proposed Air Force cuts. But those with a long memory will remember how the Guard handily defeated efforts by the Army to cut two divisions back in the late 1990s. Note to Air Force Secretary Mike Donley: just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean Congress is going to like it or let you do it. Next time, either stroke them a lot more or tell them nothing and spring it on em, a la Bill Gates.
The Senate bill does not include any money to rescue the Global Hawk Block 30s. It does include $21.5 million for the F-22’s backup oxygen systems. For Special Operations Command, they’ve thrown in $142 million for “high definition video sensors.” My favorite add-back is for the Joint Air to Ground Missile (JAGM), which I think (in the absence of details from the committee) will keep running on funds left over from 2011 and 2012. House authorizers also approved $10 million for the program, while their appropriator kin were not so kind. Expect the Senate to win on this one.
The Senate bill does not contain earmarks, or at least nothing that technically qualifies as an earmark.