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House approves $696B budget for Pentagon

The House passed the 2018 National Defense Authroization Act on Friday with a bipartisan vote of 344 to 81.

By
Stephen Carlson
While the House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill Friday, two laws capping the size of the Department of Defense's budget need to be changed or repealed. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
While the House of Representatives approved a defense appropriations bill Friday, two laws capping the size of the Department of Defense's budget need to be changed or repealed. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- The House passed the $696 billion 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on Friday with a bipartisan vote of 344 to 81.

The bill passed as 117 Democrats and all but eight Republicans voted for approval of the measure, which includes $621.5 billion toward the Department of Defense base budget and the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons programs.

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The bill also includes $75 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funding, with $10 billion of the OCO funds being earmarked for base items, such as $6 billion for shipbuilding.

The Act faces a number obstacles if it is to be be passed due to the Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestrion, whch sets a cap on base defense spending at $549 billion. Without revision or repeal of the caps, the proposed base budget would be $72 billion higher than authorized by law.

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"What we can guarantee is if we don't fund these things now, they will not be available when we need them," House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry said.

"The defense authorization bill is only one step in the process. There are many more steps to come."

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The Senate Armed Services Committee's version of the NDAA and legislation approved by the House Appropriations Committee also ignore the budget caps.

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The Trump administration has filed grievances against the legislation earlier this week with a Statement of Administration Policy. Among the disputes, the budget disapproves of establishing a separate Space Corps, refuses to institute a new round of base closures and realignments, and fails to reign in personnel costs. The administration has not, however, threatened to veto the bill.

Republicans and many Democrats have argued that the military is in need of greater funding to address readiness worries, need for a larger Navy, and new and refurbished equipment.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has argued that Congress must pass a budget instead of continuing to rely on continuing resolutions. He also called for sequestration caps to be lifted in order to address what he describes as a serious readiness crisis in the services.

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