Tag: Defense Spending

Senate Sends Defense Bill To President Trump For Signing

The US Senate easily passed a $716.3 billion defense authorization bill Wednesday that ramps up military spending and bolsters America’s posture against Russia, while avoiding policy changes that would have antagonized President Donald Trump.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 87 to 10 in the Senate a week after clearing the House of Representatives, and now heads to the White House for Trump’s signature.

The bill provides $69 billion in special war funding known as overseas contingency operations, authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces, and invests tens of billions in modernizing the Pentagon’s air and sea fleets and missile defenses.

It notably prohibits delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey, a NATO ally with increasingly fraught relations with Washington, until Ankara can confirm it will not buy Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.

And while China and Russia are classified as “strategic competitors” to the United States, the legislation negotiated between the House and Senate left out a proposal by senators that would have blocked a deal Trump reached with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE that eases tough financial penalties on the firm for helping Iran and North Korea evade American sanctions.

The capitulation smoothed things over with the White House, but it angered Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who voted against the bill.

“It’s time we opened our eyes,” Rubio told colleagues.

“We are engaged in a geopolitical competition, not with some poor agrarian country trying to catch up, but with a global super power who is quickly nipping at our heels and doing so unfairly, with the intent of replacing us in the world as the most powerful country militarily, economically, geopolitically and technologically.”

The NDAA also includes a provision allowing the administration to waive some Russia-related sanctions that would have barred Washington from selling defense-related equipment to countries using Russian technology.

Supporters of the provision stress that the change will help certain countries wean themselves off of Russian influence.

The bill including provisions which allow for better assessment of risks to US national security from transactions involving foreign firms aiming to gain access to sensitive American technology.

It also extends a restriction on US-Russian military cooperation, and authorizes $65 million to revamp the US nuclear arsenal by developing new “low-yield” nuclear weapons.

This year’s NDAA was named after Senator John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and national security hawk who is home in Arizona battling brain cancer.

“This year’s NDAA represents an important opportunity to implement an effective approach to confront a growing array of threats around the world,” McCain said.

Congress has passed the NDAA for 57 consecutive years, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal noted its success marks “a victory for the notion that national security is above politics and party.”

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The Great F-22 Fighter Shortage

With the U.S. Air Force considering the retirement of the Boeing F-15C Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s stealthy fifth-generation F-22 Raptor will be the only air superiority fighter in the service’s inventory.

While there is no doubt that the Raptor is far and away the best air superiority fighter ever built, the U.S. Air Force only has about 186 surviving Raptors in its inventory. Of those 186 remaining Raptors, only 123 are “combat-coded” aircraft with another twenty that are classified as backup aircraft inventory machines. The rest are test and training assets. Even then, some of those aircraft are undergoing long-term repairs after suffering from accidents—such as one Alaska-based aircraft that made a belly-landing in Florida in April —and are not flying.

In total, there are only six front line F-22 squadrons—rather than the required 10—all of which have fewer aircraft than a normal fighter unit. Five of those squadrons have 21 primary authorized aircraft and two backup inventory jets while one operational Hawaii Air National Guard unit has 18 primary authorized aircraft and two backup jets. Test and training units are also shortchanged—with the Weapons School and the elite 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron being forced to share roughly a dozen jets at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

This leaves the Air Force and our nation desperately short of fighter capacity and is a matter that the Air Force, the Trump administration and Congress will very soon need to address.