Congress passes $825 billion defense spending bill amid political battles, government shutdown threat

For the Pentagon, the bill’s passage signifies some return to normal order after having operated the first six months of the fiscal year under a continuing resolution.

Congress Capitol building 4

WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 06: The early morning sun strikes the U.S. Capitol November 6, 2006 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Congress passed its $825 billion defense funding bill for fiscal 2024 early this morning, missing a midnight deadline when funding was set to expire but ultimately staving off the impact of a partial government shutdown.

The defense bill — approved as part of a larger $1.2 trillion bipartisan funding package — now moves to the White House, where President Joe Biden has indicated he is ready to sign.

For the Pentagon, the bill’s passage signifies some return to normal order after having operated the first six months of the fiscal year under a continuing resolution, which keeps funding at the level of the previous year and prohibits the department from starting new programs. The FY24 defense bill adds about $27 billion compared to the FY23 enacted defense budget.

The budgetary chaos was further deepened by the release of the Defense Department’s FY25 spending request on March 11, creating a unique and unfortunate situation in which the US military was called on to defend its budgetary priorities for FY25 while critical funding initiatives for this year — including money for wage increases for servicemembers and new programs centered on deterring China — remained uncertain.

The House passed the omnibus appropriations package on Friday morning in a 286-134 vote, with 112 Republicans voting against the measure amid concerns about border security and nondefense spending. Immediately after the passage of the bill, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene — who earlier delivered fiery comments opposing the spending package — filed a motion to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, a fellow Republican, CNN and other media outlets reported.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R- Texas, said the compromise spending package “makes targeted cuts to wasteful programs,” but that more defense spending was needed to counter new threats. (Hours after the vote, Granger announced she was vacating the appropriations chair ahead of her exit from Congress in January, though she asked to remain on the committee as a “chair emeritus” to mentor the next panel’s next leader.)

“The world is becoming a more dangerous place,” she said on the House floor. “We made changes and decided on efforts that include countering China, developing next-generation weapons, and investing in the quality-of-life of our servicemembers.”

For a full run down of funding changes included in the FY24 bill, read Breaking Defense’s previous coverage. 

The bill then moved to the Senate, where the bill passed at 2:03 a.m. in a 74-24 vote where 60 votes were needed.

“This legislation is truly a national security bill — seventy percent of the funding in this package is for our national defense, including investments that strengthen our military readiness and industrial base, provide pay and benefit increases for our brave servicemembers, and support our closest allies,” said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The White House issued a statement around midnight stating that it had ceased shutdown preparations due to the “high degree of confidence” that Congress would pass the spending bill in time for the president’s signature on early Saturday.

“Because obligations of federal funds are incurred and tracked on a daily basis, agencies will not shut down and may continue their normal operations,” the White House said.

A longer weekend shutdown could have disrupted nonessential reserve and National Guard training and operations or nonessential travel by troops or civilian workers, reported Federal Times, citing Defense Department planning guidance.

While passage of a FY24 spending bill is “long overdue,” the time spent under a continuing resolution has already had a “devastating” impact on the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said earlier this week.

“Since 2010, we have lost nearly five years in total to CRs” she said at a conference on Wednesday. “No amount of money can buy that time back. It’s impossible to compete and outcompete the PRC [People’s Republic of China] with one hand tied behind our back three, four, five or six months of every fiscal year. Washington has to do better.”

The FY24 defense bill includes a number of key provisions requested by the department, including permission to ink multiyear contracts for submarines and certain missiles and $300 million to support Ukraine. It also added funds to buy platforms not originally requested by the US military, including a handful of support vessels for the Navy and additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, C-130J cargo planes,  P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, and CMV-22 Osprey tiltrotors.

The bill boosts both procurement and research and development accounts by $3 billion apiece, a “noteworthy” increase for development funds in particular, which tend to go relatively unchanged, Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners said in a note to investors.

The bill also increased funds that could benefit defense technology startups, including $842 million for the Defense Innovation Unit and $200 million to begin the Replicator attritable drone program, Callan said.