The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved its version of the defense spending bill on Thursday, which includes $515.9 billion in base funding and $58.6 billion in war funding. The bill, which now goes to the full Senate, largely mirrors the one the SAC Defense Subcommittee approved on Tuesday, which recommended $15.1 billion in budgets cuts to pay for unfunded requirements rather than using a large portion of overseas contingency operations funds, as the House Appropriations Committee’s version does. In the report accompanying the bill, however, the committee directs the Air Force to expedite procurement of a replacement for the UH-1N helicopter fleet that protects ICBM fields, according to a summary. Earlier in May, the service announced it would have a “full and open competition” to replace the Vietnam-era Hueys. The committee also directs the Secretary of Defense to mitigate any security risk by providing additional air support until a replacement is fielded. SAC also waded into another controversial procurement project. In spite of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the Fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill limiting the Pentagon to buying nine more of the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines, SAC’s bill requires all competitive launch procurements be available to all certified launch providers no matter where the engine was made, according to a summary.
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.