House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) (C) heads to the House Chamber before a budget vote at U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) (C) heads to the House Chamber before a budget vote at U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2024 in Washington, DC. Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

House passes $825B defense bill, racing the clock to avoid shutdown

Bill includes new money for ships, planes, ground combat vehicles, and AI.

The House on Friday passed a $1.2 trillion, six-bill budget package with $825 billion for the Defense Department, roughly $29 billion more than what Congress enacted in 2023. The bill now goes to the Senate, which must approve it by midnight Friday to avert a government shutdown. 

China, Europe, and cheap drones all figure heavily in the new spending. 

The legislation adds $92 million to the $9.1 billion the Department was requesting for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, as well as $108 million for greater security cooperation with Taiwan—$26 million more than the Pentagon requested. It also includes $228 million to bolster security in Eastern Europe via the Baltic Security Initiative. The legislation also includes $300 million for Ukraine via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and about $4.6 million for the Defense Department Inspector General to better monitor U.S. aid to Ukraine. 

For the Navy, the bill includes $33.5 billion to buy eight new battle ships: two DDG-51 destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, two frigates, one Columbia-class submarine, and one T-AO oiler. It also rejects the Navy’s proposal to divest four ships. 

Appropriators also boosted the Pentagon’s aircraft buy, allocating funds for 86 F-35 fighter jets, 15 KC-46 tankers, and 24 F-15EXs.  

The bill includes funds to max out production of critical munitions and fill the Pentagon’s ask for multiyear contracts for six munitions: the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, the Naval Strike Missile, Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, Patriot Advanced Capability-3, the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. 

On the Army side, the bill provides $431 million over the service’s budget request for ground combat vehicles, bringing that to $3.72 billion. It also fully funds the Army’s future vertical lift program request of $1.9 billion. 

However, the spending package, cuts the Space Force’s budget to $29 billion, down about $1 billion from the service’s request. Appropriators decreased the Space Force’s procurement budget from the requested $4.7 billion to $4.1 billion, and cut research and development from $19.2 billion to $18.7 billion.

On innovation, the bill includes $200 million for the Defense Department’s Replicator program—which aims to field tens of thousands of low-cost drones—and nearly $946 million for the Defense Innovation Unit, to accelerate Silicon Valley partnerships and the Pentagon's adoption of dual-use technology. The legislation also includes $900 million for the Office of Strategic Capital, to bolster private spending on technology areas critical to U.S. national security. 

Lawmakers added $100 million to the Defense Department’s request of $1.8 billion to speed the Pentagon’s adoption and deployment of artificial intelligence—including $10 million for the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office’s autonomy initiatives and $343 million to advance joint all-domain command and control efforts 

The bill also features a 5.2% pay increase for service members, as well as $43 million above the budget request for servicemembers’ Basic Needs Allowance.