The House Armed Services Committee voted 61-0 on Thursday to approve a $601 billion defense budget, which includes stipulations sparing the KC-10 tanker and U-2 reconnaissance missions at Travis and Beale Air Force bases.
President Barack Obama’s proposed budget had called for the phasing out of the aircraft, but Rep. John Garamendi, who represents both bases, and Rep. Runyan, R-New Jersey, added language preventing the move.
“The work of Travis and Beale airmen is crucial for America’s 21st century national defense,” Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, said in a news release. “The ability to rapidly collect intelligence and deploy defense assets is key to advancing our national interests: winning on the battlefield, preventing conflicts and responding to humanitarian disasters.”
In March, Garamendi, who co-chairs the Air Mobility Caucus, introduced legislation that would prohibit retirement of the KC-10 until the new KC-46A tanker is operational and four test and 18 initial tankers have been delivered.
Garamendi added language in support of both the U-2 and Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drone based at Beale. It says the U-2 remains necessary to meet the demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance while the Global Hawk is being upgraded.
The committee also incorporated language penned by the congressman demanding increased oversight of money it’s spending, including $3 billion in direct aid for food, salaries, good and services, and minor construction for the Afghan army. The bill now requires a Defense Department assessment of the Afghan government’s financial management.
The committee adopted Garamendi amendments calling for the Department of Defense to justify the Long-Range Standoff cruise missile program and a requirement to fabricate 50 to 80 plutonium pits, the cores for nuclear weapons, each year.
The committee did not accept Garamendi’s proposals to evaluate ways to eliminate other costly programs, including the $10 billion B-61 nuclear gravity bomb in Europe and the partially completed $7.7 billion Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in Georgia. It is meant to convert weapons-grade plutonium into commercial fuel for nuclear power plants.
“My proposals aim to address the most glaring examples of waste: outdated Cold War era nuclear weapon systems and massive corruption in Afghanistan. I am glad that we reached common ground on some of these proposals,” Garamendi said.
The budget bill also includes a 1.8 percent troop pay raise, increased psychological health programs to try to decrease suicide and proposals aimed at combatting sexual assault within the ranks.
It would eliminate the so-called “good soldier defense,” allowing general military behavior to be considered in assessing innocence; a review of discharge procedures for victims, to ensure they are not being forced out for reporting an assault; and victim consolation on whether alleged offenders are prosecuted by military or civilian court.