The armed forces would add more than 20,000 personnel, including 7,500 active-duty soldiers, under the $692 billion fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill hashed out by House and Senate negotiators. Last week’s conference agreement includes $626.4 billion in the defense base budget, which exceeds the spending cap permitted under the Budget Control Act by nearly $78 billion, raising the question as to whether all of the plans in the annual policy bill will be funded in the defense appropriations bill. Lawmakers still have not reached a deal on topline spending levels for FY 2018, with talks primarily taking place at the staff level, reported CQ. And while GOP leaders have said they are aiming to clear an omnibus spending bill to fund the government before the existing continuing resolution expires Dec. 8, many lawmakers expect Congress to pass another short-term stopgap with time quickly running out.
The House is set to vote on the conference agreement today, while the Senate’s schedule is less certain. Under the compromise measure, the Army would add a total of 8,500 soldiers, with the end strength for the National Guard and Reserve each rising by 500. For the other services, the conference agreement calls for end strength increases above FY 2017 levels of:
- Marines — 1,000 active-duty;
- Navy — 4,000 active-duty and 1,000 Reserve sailors; and
- Air Force — 4,100 active-duty, 900 Air National Guard and 800 Reserve airmen.
Conferees did not include a Senate provision trimming housing benefits for dual-military couples, leaving the basic allowance for housing program unchanged, reported Defense News.