U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) yesterday said the FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill fits within budget constraints while fortifying the nation’s long-term security interests, including approval of $800 million for procurement of a 12th LPD class amphibious warship.
Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, on Tuesday supported subcommittee approval of the defense spending bill. The measure is scheduled to be considered on Thursday by the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Our ongoing challenge is to make sure our military forces are equipped with the defense capabilities that they need to protect the security interests of our country. It think this is a solid bill that reflects a very careful review of requests from the Department of Defense for funding of programs, activities and training that are important to our security,” Cochran said.
Cochran worked with subcommittee chairman Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to provide $800 million for incremental funding of an LPD class amphibious warship. Similar funding was not included in the House-passed FY2015 Defense Appropriations Bill, but was authorized in defense authorization legislation drafted by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.
“As we reviewed the near and long-term needs of our Armed Forces in light of budget constraints, we had to make difficult choices. The $800 million for the LPD 17 amphibious warship is an example of the emphasis we’ve tried to place on restoring readiness and supporting high priority programs,” Cochran said. “The LPD funding would put the Navy on course for accepting a modern vessel and potentially saving taxpayer dollars through efficient use of existing production lines.”
The LPD funding, as well as $200 million for an additional joint high speed vessel, is among the defense programs funded in the Senate bill to address readiness concerns raised as a result of sequestration pressures on the Defense Department. The bill proposes more than 500 specific funding reductions to program requests and directs the savings to higher priorities.
In FY2013, Cochran led an effort to secure $263 million for the LPD 17 program and encouraged the Navy to present a plan to address the amphibious lift shortfall through report language. The FY2015 funding would not only provide for the 12th LPD needed now, but building it would also provide a bridge vessel toward the effort to replace the fleet of 30+ year old LSD amphibious ships.
Overall, the bill supports the administration’s request for a 1.0 percent pay raise for military personnel and adds $200 million to maintain operations at commissaries. The subcommittee also adds $507.5 million to fully fund military retirement benefits, meeting the congressional commitment to reverse cuts made to those benefits in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Murray-Ryan agreement). Cochran opposed that Act.