$29 Billion in Military Funding Tucked Inside Proposed Coronavirus Relief Package

A soldier conducts routine maintenance on an AH-64 Apache helicopter.
A soldier with the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, conducts routine maintenance on an AH-64 Apache helicopter on May 6, 2020, at Fort Riley, Kansas. (U.S. Army/Pfc. Jared Simmons)

The Republicans' proposed coronavirus relief package in the Senate includes $29 billion for the Pentagon, including nearly $8 billion in procurement and acquisition funding for major weapons and aircraft programs.

The appropriations legislation would fund Navy expeditionary medical ships, an expeditionary fast transport ship and P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft; F-35A Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets, C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and A-10 Warthog wing replacements for the Air Force; and Strykers and new AH-64 Apache helicopters for the Army, as well as missile defense programs, according to the draft proposal released Monday.

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The proposal contains $29 billion in funding for the Pentagon overall; it would also reimburse defense companies for coronavirus-related expenditures -- such as those incurred during stop-work orders -- as authorized by the CARES Act, according to Defense News.

The Senate proposal would restore some programs that were slashed in the 2020 defense budget in order to redirect funding to the southern border wall.

In February, the Trump administration sought a reprogramming request for $3.8 billion from military aircraft and shipbuilding funds in the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act; some of the programs targeted for reduction at the time had been overfunded by Congress, officials said, at levels above the military's original request.

Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Tuesday that $3.5 billion of that money has already been obligated toward the wall construction effort, which has led to disputes among lawmakers and the White House.

Many Senate Democrats were quick to oppose the latest legislation, with many businesses shuttered and millions of people out of work during the pandemic.

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, called the package a "wish list" for the Defense Department instead of much-needed relief for American citizens.

"What does this have to do with the immediate crisis?" he said in a statement. "The bill provides nothing to address the long lines at food banks and shortchanges [in] education and child care, but we can shore up the defense industry? I am at a loss for words."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a longtime critic of the defense industry, called the bill "obscene."

"Senate Republicans are using COVID-19 relief as cover to shovel $30 billion to defense contractors while gutting unemployment insurance, providing zero dollars for state and local governments, and doing absolutely nothing on the looming eviction crisis," she said in a statement.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

Related: F-35s, Reaper Drones Would Be Cut in New Border Wall Funding Proposal

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