Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon), the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today announced that the Committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310) by a vote of 56 to 5. The bill authorizes $642 billion in total spending for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy, including funding for programs at Amarillo's Bell Helicopter plant and for operations at Pantex.
"Clearly, we are operating in a time of declining resources. Our debt and deficit mean we have to make difficult choices," said Rep. Thornberry. "Already, defense has taken half a trillion dollars in cuts. And while this bill also makes significant savings, it keeps our promises to our troops and veterans and ensures that our military can continue to defend the country effectively. In fact, the Committee adopted an amendment that prevents DoD from doing any planning or preparations for a new round of base closures this year," he continued.
Locally, the annual defense policy bill authorizes funding for programs at Bell Helicopter and Pantex. Bell Helicopter projects funded include a total of $2.109 billion for the V-22 Osprey program, $851.5 million for Huey (UH-1Y) and Cobra (AH-1Z) helicopters, and $346.348 million for the Kiowa Warrior helicopter. These amounts include the purchase of new aircraft, upgrades and modifications to existing ones, and research and development. Bell Helicopter's Amarillo plant is the primary location for work conducted on the Osprey and Huey/Cobra programs. The facility also performs work on the Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
In addition, the defense bill also authorizes a new, multi-year contract to purchase 98 V-22 aircraft over the next five years for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command.
The legislation also provides approximately $690 million for Pantex for weapons assembly and disassembly, weapons evaluation, research and development, and other funding for staff and support. This represents a nearly 17 percent increase, or approximately $100 million dollars, over the President's most recent budget request.
"Our part of Texas plays an important role in our nation's defense and this bill continues that tradition. Even while we are cutting programs and spending, this latest defense bill shows sustained and strong support for local assets like Pantex and Bell. It really is a testament to their fine work and solid reputations," said Thornberry.
Overall, the legislation authorizes $536 billion for the Department of Defense's base budget, $88 billion for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and $18 billion for the Department of Energy's atomic energy defense programs.
Included in the legislation is a 1.7 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the Armed Forces in 2013. The bill rejects the proposed increases by the Obama Administration for higher fees for current military personnel and retirees under Tricare. Additionally, it puts limits on future increases in pharmacy co-payments for the first time.
In response to the Obama Administration's request to cut the end-strength of the Armed Forces, the legislation seeks to preserve military readiness by slowing the pace of personnel reductions. It places an annual cap on any reductions in the size of the ground force, including limiting reductions of Army personnel to no more than 15,000 annually in fiscal years 2014 through 2017. The bill would allow personnel who may be forced to leave military service as a result of reductions in manpower to have full access to military family housing for six months.
Thornberry said he was hopeful the House Leadership would bring H.R. 4310 to a vote by the full House before Memorial Day.