The Navy will enjoy its biggest shipbuilding budget surge since the end of the Cold War — including money to speed production of submarines — under a $459.3b defense spending bill that President Bush recently signed into law.
The Pentagon spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 totals slightly less than Mr. Bush sought but it raises military pay and health benefits plus spending for the National Guard and reserves beyond what he requested. The bill also represents a hike of 9.5 percent – almost $40b — over the level of fiscal year 2007, continuing a strong upward trend in the defense budget since Mr. Bush took office.
The bill omits most of the emergency spending Mr. Bush seeks for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving that emotional issue for Congress to resolve separately. Yesterday, the House took up a $50b bill that would finance the wars until February and require troop withdrawals to begin within a month.
The regular Defense Department spending bill — covering personnel, equipment, research, weapons buying and more — was a rare occasion for accord between the White House
and the Democratic-majority Congress.
The new spending bill grants Mr. Bush’s request to build a single sub this year but adds $588m to buy components for a nuclear-propulsion plant and other items that will enable the two builders to construct two subs per year beginning in 2010. That’s two years before the Navy had planned accelerating production to that level — which supporters of the undersea fleet
see as essential to reversing the contraction of the fleet that began in the early 1990s.
Counting the advance procurement funds
for the submarine, the 2008 spending bill contains money for a total of 10 ships — 5 more than the administration had sought in the budget request
to Congress early this year.
Besides the $588mn addition for subs, the bill adds these items to shipbuilding accounts:
•$300m for three T-AKE cargo ships;
•$50m for another LPD-17 transport ship;
•$339m for the littoral combat ship, a program that the Navy has counted on for near-shore operations in the low-gauge conflicts the service sees as likely to predominate in the future.
But the fledgling program has been troubled by cost overruns, and the Congress and Mr. Bush settled on a sum significantly smaller than both had envisioned.
The bill also raises military pay by 3.5 percent across the board and significantly sweetens health care and other benefits — beyond the levels sought by the Pentagon. In addition, the bill bolsters spending for military hospitals
It also provides more than $15b for the purchase of mine-resistant vehicles for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[Source: The Providence Journal]