Analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations Bill

On June 11, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $575.9 billion in discretionary defense spending$489.1 billion in the base budget and $86.8 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund (OCO).

The $489.1 billion approved for the base budget is $45.2 billion below the President’s base budget request, and the $86.9 billion for OCO is $36.0 billion more than the President’s request for war funding.

Senate Committee recommendations for FY 2016 by title as compared to President’s Request and 2015 appropriation

Senate Committee Rec. for FY 2016

President’s request for FY 2016 FY 2015 appropriation

Title I – Military Personnel

$129.4 billion -$1.0 billion

+$1.4 billion

Title II – Operation and maintenance

$139.2 billion -$37.3 billion -$22.5 billion
Title III – Procurement $109.8 billion +2.9 billion

+16.0 billion

Title IV – Research, development, test and evaluation

$70.3 billion +$539.7 million

+$6.6 billion

Title V – Revolving and management funds

$2.3 billion +467.0 million

+119.3 million

Title VI – Other Department of Defense programs

$34.3 billion +$63.4 million

+$149.3 million

Title VII – Related agencies

$1.0 billion -$16.1 million

+6.3 million

Title VIII – General provisions (net)

-$3.4 billion -$3.4 billion

-2.5 billion

Title IX – Overseas Contingency Operations $86.9 billion +35.9 billion

+22.9 billion


Overseas Contingency Operations: An amendment by Senator Durbin (D-Ill.) to move the $35.9 billion above the administration’s request for OCO back to the base budget failed on a party line vote of 16-14, but Democratic leaders have blocked floor consideration of the bill as long as the OCO budget gimmick remains. Subsequently, a motion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring up the bill on the Senate floor failed because Democrats refused to go along.

The Durbin amendment would have brought OCO levels back to $50.9 billion, the same amount as the administration’s request.

Military Engagement in the Middle East: The committee bill declares a sense of the Senate that Congress should enact an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force to clarify the United States military role against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Navy Modernization: The Appropriations Committee’s report on the defense spending bill chastises the Navy for playing Congress by repeatedly requesting less money than it really needs to complete programs, with the expectation that Congress will bail them out.

Sea Based Deterrence Fund: The report explicitly does not fund the Sea Based Deterrence account, a special fund created to bankroll the Navy’s new nuclear missile submarines: “The committee recommendation does not include any new transfer authority or similar proposal in relation to alternative funding mechanisms for the Ohio Class replacement.” Like OCO, the Sea Based Deterrence account is a budget gimmick.

F-35: The bill would add funding for 10 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters: $846 million for six additional Marine Corps aircraft and $392 million for four additional Air Force aircraft. The F-35 is the most expensive weapons program ever, and, according to the House defense spending bill report, isn’t performing very well.

Nuclear Force Improvement Program: The Committee “welcomes recent efforts by the Air Force to reinvigorate its nuclear enterprise.” In line with the president’s request, the Committee allocates more than $130 million for the Nuclear Force Improvement Program, and requires the Air Force to submit a report that lists investments made in the improvement program. The Pentagon and Department of Energy have launched an ambitious program to modernize all aspects of our nuclear weapons forces, including our nuclear weapons stockpile. Estimates indicate that the United States could spend up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear arsenal.

Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): The LCS is plagued with design and construction issues, which has lead to serious cost overruns. A key function of the LCS, the mission module (vehicles, sensors, weapons and support equipment), does not function properly. The Committee report acknowledges this flaw and also questions the Navy’s acquisition strategy for mission modules. The overall Marine Corps procurement appropriation is $108.2 million more than the President’s request; however, the Committee recommends $104 million less for LCS mission modules than the President’s request.

Missile Defense: The Committee recommends a total of $8.2 billion, across military branches, for anti-missile programs. That includes an additional $329.8 million for Israeli missile defense programs.

Ground Based Strategic Deterrent: In an effort to increase contract competition, the Committee requires the Air Force to report to Congress a strategy for using competitive awards throughout the acquisition process when exploring options to replace the Minuteman III system.

Sharing Ballistic Missile Defense Information With Russia: The Committee reminds the President that restrictions on sharing of sensitive U.S. ballistic defense information were established in the FY 2015 defense authorization bill: “The Committee expects the administration to continue to adhere to current law until superseded by an act authorizing appropriations for fiscal year 2016.”