Air Warfare

Replicator, planes and multi-year deals: What’s in the new FY24 defense spending bill

The bipartisan spending package, released early this morning, increases defense funding by $27 billion over the previous year’s enacted budget and includes a number of key provisions the department had requested.

US congress capitol building

The US Capitol. (Photo by Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The House and Senate appropriations committees today unveiled a final $825 billion defense funding bill for fiscal 2024, leaving just two days for both chambers to pass the proposal before government funding runs out as the clock strikes midnight on Saturday morning.

The bipartisan spending package, released early this morning, increases defense funding by $27 billion over the previous year’s enacted budget and includes a number of key provisions requested by the department, according to a summary of the proposed legislation.

One of the top adds is $200 million for the Defense Department’s Replicator effort, a strong show of confidence in the department’s effort to field thousands of attritable drones over the next two years. When the department delivered its FY24 budget request to Congress last year, it hadn’t unveiled the new initiative yet, and has since said it would like a total of $500 million this year to kick it off. (The Pentagon has submitted a separate reprogramming request for $300 million, Bloomberg reported last month.)

RELATED: Army has 1 unmanned system in Replicator’s initial tranche, 3 others in mind

Appropriators also included multi-year procurement dollars for several key munition lines —  the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Naval Strike Missile, Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile — and greenlit the Defense Department to negotiate multiyear contracts for Columbia- and Virginia-class submarines.

Funding for multi-year munition deals is a big win for Pentagon officials, who have said such contracts will drive down the per unit cost of weapons, provide the industrial base with more stability and help build up the department’s magazine depth.

As the wars in Ukraine and Gaza wage on and showcase the proliferation of unmanned aerial drones, appropriators included $100 million to accelerate purchases of new counter-small unmanned aircraft systems (C-sUAS). It also directs the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in coordination with the acquisition heads, to provide quarterly reports to the congressional defense committees on spending activities.

And while a $105 billion supplemental funding bill containing military aid for Ukraine and Israel languishes in Congress, the FY24 spending bill would provide some relief, adding $300 million to continue support for Ukraine and an additional $4.6 million for the Special Inspector General conducting oversight of the Pentagon’s activities related to Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers were able to carve out several major defense policy wins, cutting $50.5 million from diversity and inclusion programs and reducing climate change projects by $574 million. Both political parties celebrated a 5.2 percent increase to basic military pay — the largest such wage increase in over 20 years.

Congress now faces a ticking clock to approve the appropriations bills before the end of Friday, when a government shutdown would be triggered. Lawmakers voiced some optimism that the House and Senate would get the spending proposals through procedural roadblocks, including a “72 hour rule” that requires lawmakers have at least 72 hours to review bill language before a vote.

“I’m very confident that the appropriations bills will get done, hopefully by the end of the week,” House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rob Wittman, R-Va., said during a Wednesday conference. “There’s a lot of back and forth about the 72 hour rule, but it sounds like — and I don’t have anything official — but it sounds like that may be on the floor in the House on Friday to vote for final passage.”

Since appropriations bills must start in the House, the most likely scenario for the Senate is a vote late Friday, said Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We’re hoping to get it done again at the nth hour before shutdown,” she said Wednesday.

Earlier this week President Joe Biden said he approved of compromise bills that would fund the government and planned to sign them “immediately” after passage on the Hill.

Navy and Marine Corps

For the Navy, the bill funds the construction of eight battle ships — two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class fast attack submarines, one Columbia-class ballistic submarine, two frigates, and one T-AO Fleet Oiler. It also adds $500 million for advanced procurement of an additional San Antonio-class amphibious ship.

Appropriators increased funds for support ships, adding $585 million for four ship-to-shore connectors, $72 million for one additional Auxiliary Personnel Lighter and $30 million for one additional Repair, Berthing and Messing Barge.

Meanwhile, lawmakers denied the Navy’s request to divest four ships, according to a summary of the bill.

The bill fully funds requests for 16 F-35Bs for the Marine Corps and 19 F-35Cs for the Navy and Marine Corps.

Beyond the tactical fighter buy, lawmakers made major increases to aircraft procurement, adding $675 million for five CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, $1.8 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, $431 million to keep E-2D Advanced Hawkeye production going with two more planes, and $119 million for one KC-130J.

However, the bill zeroes out about $546 million in procurement funding for the MQ-25 tanker drone, transmitting some of the funding back to research and development and excising almost $486 million for being “ahead of need.”

Air Force

Accounting for transfers to different line items, program cuts and plus-ups, the bill’s passage would see the Air Force’s Operations and Maintenance request drop from nearly $62.8 billion to $61.5 billion, military personnel would fall from $36.8 billion to $36.2 billion, aircraft procurement would climb from $20.3 billion to $20.8 billion, missile procurement would fall from $5.5 billion to $4.7 billion, and total R&D would rise from $46.6 billion to $47.3 billion

Some big increases in Air Force procurement would boost production of aircraft built by Lockheed Martin. About $277 million is added to buy three additional Lockheed F-35As, as well as $840 million for eight more C-130Js for the Air National Guard. The legislation further notes that forcing air wings to operate a mixed-fleet of H- and J-model C-130s could increase maintenance burdens, and therefore mandates that the Air Force Secretary “prioritize upgrading existing C-130H squadrons with C-130J aircraft at a one-to-one ratio.”

Appropriators would further add $400 million to buy 10 additional HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopters built by Lockheed subsidiary Sikorsky. The Air Force previously moved to truncate that program citing concerns about the platform’s survivability in contested environments, but lawmakers have moved to add more of the helos back in due to concerns about a gap in combat rescue capabilities.

Lawmakers have also taken an interest in the Air Force’s recently announced overhaul for “Great Power Competition,” writing that the service “has not provided thorough justification for this reorganization, a comprehensive implementation plan, or detailed budgetary information necessary for the Subcommittees to assess this plan.” The Air Force Secretary must notify congressional defense committees 30 days prior to changes and fully explain them, the bill says, which also directs the Government Accountability Office to audit the Air Force’s overhaul.

Asked about the congressional language, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said in a statement that “[a]s the Department of the Air Force develops implementation plans, leaders will continue to share information with congressional staffs.”

The appropriations package further puts the contentious issue of the future of the F-35 engine to rest, at least for the foreseeable future. Lawmakers would provide $280 million for advanced engine development research, but the money should be used “only to develop advanced engine technologies for integration into future engine development programs,” explanatory text accompanying the bill says — meaning there won’t be a dramatic replacement for the existing F135 engine made by Pratt & Whitney beyond a planned upgrade.


When it comes to the Army, the proposed compromise spending package supports an active-duty force with 445,000 soldiers, about 7,000 fewer than initially requested.

Appropriators want to give the Army’s procurement coffers a $344 million boost over its request with $23.7 billion included in the spending package. That includes $3.2 billion for aircraft, $4.6 billion for missiles, $4.2 billion for weapons and tracked combat vehicles, $2.9 billion for ammunition, and $8.6 billion for “other” programs.

Several of the service’s missile lines, like PAC-3, now have dollars behind them to support multi-year buys typically reserved for larger ship and aircraft programs. If signed into law, the spending plan provides the service with $62 million to purchase the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS), a program for which the Army didn’t initially request funding.

On the combat vehicle front, lawmakers significantly boosted the Army’s M1 Abrams main battle procurement upgrade procurement request and want to funnel $1.2 billion in its direction, while also slicing $163 million off the service’s baseline request for Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) buys due to a “program adjustment.”

As for service plans for research and development initiatives this year, appropriators want to boost the Army’s request from nearly $16 billion up to $17 billion.

Straddling the procurement and development coffers is hypersonic missile work. Despite a string of development and testing challenges with the Army and Navy’s joint initiative, one the Army calls Dark Eagle, appropriators want to provide $2.1 billion for the initiative this year for both services but are directing additional dollars towards research and development coffers. Specifically, the spending bill shuffles $200 million in Navy funds over to continued development activities, while $23 million in Army dollars are realigned as well.

Space Force

For the newest service branch, the draft agreement would cut slightly more than $1 billion from the Space Force’s total FY24 request of $30 billion.

Procurement is set at $4.06 billion, a slip from the FY24 request of $4.71 billion, as well as the $4.46 billion enacted in FY23. However, the appropriators fully funded the service’s request for $2.1 billion to fund 10 launches under National Security Space Launch program in FY24.

RTD&E is set by appropriators at $18.7 billion, again a small slip from the $19.2 requested by the Space Force last year, but a small increase from the FY23 appropriation of $17 billion.

In particular, the appropriators showed concern about the Space Force’s plans for developing and procuring the newest version of Global Position System satellites, the GPS IIIF. The draft bill would chop RTD&E for GPS IIIF from the $309 million requested to $202 million, and procurement $1.21 billion to $1.03 billion.

While not earmarking any new funds, the appropriators encouraged the Space Force to increase spending — primarily by turning to commercial capabilities — on two new mission areas being explored by the service: cislunar space and in-space assembly and manufacturing.