On Sept. 24, the House passed the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill by a vote of 392 to 39, sending it over to the Senate. The day before, the chairmen of the Armed Services Committees announced that House and Senate conferees had reached agreement on the legislation, which authorizes nearly the dollar figure in President Bush’s request—$612.5 billion—but rearranges the allocation. For instance, conferees upped the military pay raise by half a percent, providing a 3.9 percent increase, and prohibited the Administration from raising Tricare fees in 2009, increasing the defense health program funding by $1.2 billion to cover the difference. Lawmakers also authorized $495 million in research & development and $35 million in advance procurement to continue—against Administration wishes—the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine, the GE-Rolls Royce F136. The conferees squared the Air Force’s top 2009 unfunded priority, adding $96.9 million to cover B-52 flying hours and depot maintenance to sustain a common-configuration force of 76 B-52s. And, checking off another USAF unfunded item, the measure authorizes $2.1 billion for six C-17s. (HASC highlights and SASC release)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.