Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs arrive at Air Base No. 11 in Beja, Portugal, May 31, 2024.

Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs arrive at Air Base No. 11 in Beja, Portugal, May 31, 2024. U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Renee Nicole S.N. Finona

House defense bills on collision course over F-35, second sub

Appropriators would boost, not cut, jet purchases, and hew to the Navy’s submarine-building plan.

House appropriators want to buy more F-35 fighters but don’t want to fund a second attack submarine in fiscal 2025, a split from House authorizers’ own defense policy proposal. 

The House Appropriations committee’s $833 billion spending proposal, released today, would cut overall procurement for the Pentagon, but add money to buy eight more F-35s—bringing the total buy to 76 jets. 

By contrast, the House Armed Services committee’s version proposes to cut 10 F-35s, and delay the delivery of 10 additional jets, and redirect that money to fix some of the program’s problems. The toplines of both bills abided by the budget caps mandated by Congress in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, or FRA. But while authorizers inform policy decisions and make spending suggestions, appropriators ultimately greenlight the funds. 

House appropriators would hew to the Navy’s request to fund just one Virginia-class attack submarine in fiscal 2025. The House Armed Services committee’s version of the bill added advanced procurement for a second submarine to force the Navy to keep a cadence of two subs per year. 

The GOP-controlled committee would also cut $18 billion in “unjustified and unnecessary items” from the president’s budget request, such as $916 million for the DOD’s civilian workforce and $621 million for climate change initiatives, and would send the money to programs that counter China and “enhance the DOD’s role” in stopping fentanyl and other drugs.  

“Every dollar counts within the topline limitation imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Therefore, this bill withholds funds from initiatives and programs that are wasteful, inefficient, or do not contribute directly to our national security,” HAC-D Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said in a statement.

The bill blocks funding for the department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, and prohibits the use of funds for servicemembers to obtain an abortion—provisions that House Democrats have already pushed back on. 

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the committee’s ranking member, said: “Once again, the Republican majority has written a defense appropriations bill that prioritizes extremist social policy views over the well-being of our service members and the security of our nation. Instead of building on the bipartisan conclusion to the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, the Fiscal Year 2025 Defense Appropriations bill includes the same outrageous policy riders that were rejected by Congress only two months ago. This bill would undermine the progress the Services have made in solving their recruitment challenges with provisions that will discourage many Americans from serving.”

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee is set to mark up the bill on Wednesday. 

[Editor’s note: Calvert is among the lawmakers who sought to overturn election results in 2021.]