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US lawmakers agree on $700bn military budget

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US troops partake in a military exercise in Jordan. (File photo by Getty Images)

Lawmakers in the US Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on a $700 billion military bill for the next year that hikes spending beyond what President Donald Trump had requested.

The National Defense Authorization Act 2018 negotiated Wednesday by the armed services committees in both chambers of Congress raises the base spending budget to $634.2 billion from Trump’s already record breaking $603 billion.

The proposed bill also sets aside $65.7 billion for overseas military operations, compared to $59 billion in 2016.

“We are tremendously proud of this NDAA, which will strengthen our military, provide our troops a pay raise, bolster missile defense, drive innovation in military technology to secure our global advantage, and build on the defense reforms Congress has passed in recent years,” Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed, the ranking member on the Armed Services committee, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Representative Mac Thornberry said Wednesday in a joint statement.

The budget hike would allow the US military to spend $26.2 billion for 14 new ships and $10.1 billion for the purchase of 90 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Under the new deal, US military commanders will also be able to dole out $5.9 billion for Virginia-class submarines, $5.6 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, $4.4 billion for aircraft carriers, $3.1 billion for Army helicopters and $1.9 billion for procuring 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft.

The legislation also lets the US military to expand the Army by 7,500 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 1,000. The Army Reserve force and the Army National Guard are also slated to grow by 500 soldiers each while a 2.4-percent pay increase for service members will be possible.

Although the agreement has increased the bill’s chances to pass Congress, lawmakers still need to raise Budget Control Act caps that limit the base spending at $549 billion. Overseas operations spending isn't subject to the caps but there is a $85 billion difference that Congress needs to sort out.

The budget also rejected some proposals, including a House plan for the creation of a Space Corps under the Air Force’s command. The idea’s opponents, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, went as far as including language in the bill the prohibits a Space Corps.

Earlier this week, news broke that Trump had asked lawmakers for a $5.9 increase in military spending.

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