With the current fiscal year already more than half over, Congress on Thursday was finally able to approve a spending bill to cover government operations for Fiscal 2011, sending the legislation to President Obama’s desk for signature. Included in the appropriations legislation is $513 billion to fund the Pentagon’s base operations, a $5 billion increase over the enacted Fiscal 2010 level, but still far shy of the $540 billion that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned was necessary to avoid serious disruption to Pentagon operations. For the Air Force, an enacted bill would remove current restrictions on much-needed activities like starting new military construction projects and ramping up production of MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from 24 to 48. Such activities have been barred so far this fiscal year while the Pentagon has operated under continuing resolutions. Among the notable defense highlights, the spending bill does not include funding for the F136, the F-35 strike fighter’s competing engine, that Gates wants Congress to let die once and for all. (See The Hill report)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.