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Congress Keeps Adding Billions to Pentagon Budget

As the clock ticks ever closer to the triggering of the sequestration time bomb -- you know, the massive cuts to government spending that are set to take effect next January unless Congress moves to eliminate them -- lawmakers are still forcing more cash on the Pentagon than it says it needs during this time of belt-tightening.

Yup, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is set to add nearly $3 billion to the Pentagon's weapons buying accounts in its version -- called a markup -- of the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill that's set to be unveiled tomorrow. And yes, the HASC's bill along with a similar effort by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, is meant to bar the Air Force from retiring its fleet of C-27J Spartan airlifters. The appropriators also moved to keep the service flying its Block 30 Global Hawk spy drones that Air Force brass want to retire in favor of keeping U-2 spylanes.

From Defense News:

Overall, the committee’s bill provides $554 billion in defense spending with another $88 billion for overseas contingency funds.

That’s $29 billion over the Pentagon’s request for $525.4 billion in base defense spending, but on par with the contingency request.

Here are the changes from the Pentagon's budget request that House lawmakers inserted into the bill:

AIR FORCE

• Aircraft procurement rose $389 million, largely on the strength of plus-ups to the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper UAV programs and $138 million to keep its C-27Js. Advance procurement funds deemed excessive for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were cut by $64 million, along with another $23 million in “premature” spares for the aircraft, which has not yet entered service.

• Ammunition spending rose $163 million due to increases in Joint Direct Attack Munitions, general bombs, rockets and fuses.

• Missile procurement rose $95 million from increases to the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and Predator Hellfire missile.

ARMY

• Missile procurement jumped $100 million, split between increases for the Hellfire and Patriot PAC-3 missiles.

• Weapons and combat vehicle procurement jumped $383 million, due chiefly to increases in Abrams tank upgrades, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle program and the M88A2 Hercules improved recovery vehicle.

• Ammunition procurement was reduced by $108 million, primarily because of cuts to 5.56 mm and 30mm ammunition and Excalibur 155 mm rounds.

• Funds under “other procurement” dropped $80 million, spread over several programs.

NAVY

• Shipbuilding and conversion funds rose nearly $900 million, primarily for advance procurement of an additional submarine and destroyer to the 2014 shipbuilding program.

• Aircraft procurement rose overall about $100 million, and included an additional $170 million to restore five previously-cut MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

• Weapons procurement rose $113 million, spread over a number of programs.

• Total Marine Corps procurement funding dropped by $140 million due to a decrease requested by the Corps for the light armored vehicle product improvement program.

Across the Defense Department, the HASC recommends a rise of $2.141 billion in procurement spending, from $97.432 billion to $99.573 billion.

Procurement spending for overseas operations rose by $620 million, from $9.687 billion to $10.308 billion.

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