The defense package includes $3 billion to transfer defense equipment to Ukraine and an additional $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome.
10 March 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News
WASHINGTON: A bipartisan agreement among Congressional appropriators has the US finally on the verge of a fiscal 2022 budget, one featuring $782 billion for national defense and an additional $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine.
“I’m proud of this package we approved and responded to Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said at the McAleese Conference today.
Included in that national defense total is $728.5 billion for the Defense Department, $13.5 billion more than the department asked for when its budget request rolled out in late May 2021. The appropriator’s agreement comes nearly six months after the fiscal year began, meaning current programs are operating under last year’s funding and new programs have been unable to begin.
The new legislation largely increases the Pentagon’s procurement and research and development accounts, allocating $119 billion in research, development, test and evaluation funding, up $7 billion from the department’s request and $12 billion above the FY21 enacted.
It also allocates about $145 billion for procurement, $12.4 billion above the budget request and $8.4 billion above the last year’s appropriation.
“We were expecting that,” said Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord, referring to the bump in RDT&E and procurement funding.
The omnibus legislation comes after nearly six months of continuing resolutions that led defense leaders to warn Congress of major program delays if the government was forced to operate under a CR for a full-year.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Armed Services Committee, happily said the bill looks “relatively like a Republican defense bill.”
The omnibus — which still needs to be passed by both chambers and signed into law amidst fights over non-defense dollars — provides substantial increases for several programs. The bill would give the Navy $26.7 billion to buy 13 new ships, $4.1 billion above the request. It also fully funds the Air Force’s request for 85 F-35s, 12 F/A-18E/Fs and 12 F-15EXs.
The Army received increases in funding for several older platforms, as service officials have been sounding the alarm that future budget requests will have to make tough sacrifices to meet its modernization goals. The Army procurement account includes $139 million above the Army request for 41 additional Stryker A1 combat vehicles. Lawmakers are adding an additional $374 million above the Army’s budget request for counter-small Unmanned Aerial Systems, bringing that total to $434 million.
Ukraine Special Funding
The department had asked for $10 billion for Ukraine, McCord said, less than the $13.6 billion appropriators have lined up as a response to Russia’s invasion. Tester argued that it was important to get the funding bill through quickly without obstruction.
“The potential for this thing in Ukraine blowing up, I mean, blowing up … will make you not sleep at night, if you think about it,” Tester said.
McCord praised Congress for finally releasing the bill and including the Ukraine aid, saying that President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address showed “strong bipartisan support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We are seeing that in the supplemental,” McCord said. “Very grateful that the Congress jumped on that and I have a feeling that it kind of helped push the thing over the edge and got it done.”
The Ukraine supplemental contains more than $6.5 billion for defense assistance and $4 billion in “dire humanitarian needs,” according to the bill summary.
The Ukrainian assistance bill provides $3 billion for operations mission support, deployment and intelligence support for European Command.
It also includes $650 million for the Foreign Military Financing program to build “capacity to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine and its neighbors, including NATO Eastern Flank countries.”
Additionally, the spending package includes $3 billion for the Biden administration to transfer defense equipment to Ukraine and other allies.
The omnibus includes an additional $300 million for the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative. It also provides tens of millions to eastern European allies, including $180 million for the Baltic Security Initiative, $30 million for Poland, $30 million for Romania, $20 million for Bulgaria, and $40 million for Georgia.
Defense leaders at the McAleese Conference on Wednesday praised the Ukrainian aid package, with McCord calling the bill a “show of strong support for Ukraine” and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, dubbing it “pretty healthy.”
The Biden administration and congressional leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties reached agreement early Wednesday on the passage of an overall budget bill funding federal spending for the rest of the current fiscal year, which runs until September 30.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation Wednesday night, divided into two sections. The military spending portion, providing a record $782 billion to the build-up of the US military machine, passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote.
The social spending portion, smaller at $730 billion, passed on a near party-line vote, 260-171, supported by all but one Democrat, and only 39 Republicans.
The bill is massive, both in terms of the funds allocated, some $1.5 trillion, and in its physical size, more than 2,700 pages. Dozens of extraneous provisions were inserted in the “must-pass” legislation, while other measures were stripped out to appease Senate Republicans, whose support was required to overcome any filibuster.
The record military spending is supplemented by another $14 billion, labeled “aid to Ukraine,” although the bulk of it is spending to support US military operations in Eastern Europe, including the deployment of thousands of additional troops, tanks and warplanes.
The total comes to nearly $800 billion, more than any US administration has ever spent on military operations for a single year.
The Biden administration initially requested $715 billion for the Pentagon; Congress raised this figure by $25 billion in the National Defense Authorization Act passed late last year. The appropriations bill adds another $42 billion, plus the Ukraine money.
To this should be added most of the appropriation for the Department of Energy, which manages the production of US nuclear warheads before they are loaded into bombs and missiles, and much of the spending for the Department of Homeland Security, which reached a record $106 billion, an increase of 11 percent, and spending on the intelligence agencies.
Total spending by all departments of the federal government for the military-intelligence apparatus certainly exceeds $1 trillion, more than the next eight countries in the world combined. By comparison, the Russian military budget is estimated at $62 billion, about one-sixteenth of the US total.
Other provisions include support for “counterterrorism” efforts in Africa, an additional $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system, and money for the State Department to promote pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian measures such as the Abraham Accords, reached under the Trump administration, between the arch-reactionary oil sheikdoms and the Zionist state.
In order to obtain Senate Republican support for the “omnibus” bill before the next federal shutdown deadline of Friday midnight, the White House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to virtually every demand by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee.
McConnell issued a statement declaring, “This agreement provides significantly more money than the Biden Administration requested for defense and significantly less money than the Administration requested for non-defense. At my insistence, it also provides much more money for Ukraine than Democrats had proposed, particularly for authorities and funding to deliver crucial military equipment to Ukraine quickly.”
“The Omnibus rejects liberal policies and effectively addresses Republican priorities,” Shelby gloated. “The House and Senate should act quickly and send it to the President.” Among the Democratic concessions, he cited the dropping of an effort to rescind the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of Medicaid or other federal money to pay for abortions.
Liberal Democrats sought to use the Ukraine crisis as a justification for their support for the record military spending. “I do support military aid to Ukraine,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat, New York). “I think that’s the thing. We never support the defense budget.” Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer said, “It’s situational. And there’s a lot riding on it. We need to support Ukraine.”
The White House also cited the Ukraine aid, as well as a $46 billion increase in domestic social spending, as reasons for supporting the bipartisan deal. But the total spending deviates from Democratic Party claims of “parity” between military and non-military spending, providing $782 billion for the military, and $730 billion for all other discretionary spending by the federal government.
Speaking on behalf of the White House, budget director Shalanda Young said in a statement, “The bipartisan funding bill is proof that both parties can come together to deliver for the American people and advance critical national priorities. … It will mean historic levels of assistance for the Ukrainian people, a bold new initiative to drive unprecedented progress in curing cancer and other diseases, and more support to keep our communities safe.”
The latter was a reference to additional funding for state and local police agencies, mainly through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department.
The division of the omnibus spending bill into two parts is for the purposes of political posturing. All the Democrats and a handful of Republicans approved the domestic social spending, while most Republicans and all but seven Democrats approved the military spending. Each measure contains a provision to combine the two into a single bill when it goes to the Senate later in the week.
In a significant exposure of the reactionary maneuvering to obtain passage of the bill, Speaker Pelosi removed a $15.6 billion provision for supplementary COVID-19 spending from the omnibus bill, which delayed the planned vote from the afternoon until late at night. She did so after many “progressive” Democrats objected to the method used to finance the COVID-19 supplement, which was to raid funds already previously appropriated under last year’s American Relief Act but not yet sent to state and local governments for distribution.
In other words, the COVID-19 “spending” was not new money at all, in contrast to the Ukraine military supplement, which is added to the money being allocated to the Pentagon. There was widespread opposition from Democratic representatives spread across some 30 states which would lose money. In a letter to the Democratic caucus, Pelosi admitted that states would lose about 9 percent of the federal funds they were expecting to receive. This admission only generated more opposition, so Pelosi simply pulled the bill from the floor so that it could be hurriedly revised and resubmitted.
The episode demonstrates both the cynical and reactionary character of the congressional Democratic leadership, and the timidity of the “opposition” by progressives, if it even merits the name. All factions of the Democratic Party will be united in passage of the overall legislation, in both the House and Senate, providing the biggest bonanza in history for the US war machine.