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Congress Passes FY-11 Defense Policy Bill

The House today passed the Senate's amendment to the 2011 defense authorization bill paving the way for the $725 billion defense bill to be sent to the President's desk.

The only change Senators made to the bill was to strike Title XVII, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. Other than that, the bill is identical to the one passed by the House on Dec. 17.

It's highlights include:

$282 billion in readiness dollars going toward operation and maintenance of military gear and facilities, a 12 billion increase over last year’s O&M authorization.

Another $60 billion is going toward the Navy and Marine Corps procurement coffers, with $18 billion of that money dedicated to buying the two services 206 aircraft. The bill also tells the Department of the Navy to get its act together in dealing with a potential fighter gap caused by delays in fielding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“It is estimated that by FY 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps inventory could be at least 250 aircraft short of requirements — the equivalent of five carrier air wings,” reads the House summary of the bill. “This is an unacceptable outcome, and Congress will not support future budget requests that fail to address” the shortfall.

It goes on to say lawmakers expect to see future budget requests continue “production of F-18s to prevent our naval airpower from losing significance in our nation’s arsenal” unless the F-35 program can completely right itself.

The bill also allows the Navy to move ahead with a new presidential helicopter replacement program, albeit with heavy GAO monitoring with the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the VH-71 fiasco.

It also contains $16 billion in shipbuilding funds along with fully funding the Marine Corps’ $3.1 billion procurement request “to help protect our Marines during combat operations” and “supports” the continued development of the Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

On the air and land side of things, the bill authorizes $78 billion for Army and Air Force spending. It fully funds the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle with $461 million. It also requires the Pentagon to come up with a solid plan for the F-35; linking JSF production to design, testing, manufacturing and fielding milestones.

The bill ducks the issue of funding the F136 alternate engine program for the F-35. It neither permits nor denies the Pentagon from moving ahead with the program. We’ll see what happens.

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