Final Defense Budget Mostly Business As Usual

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The final conference report for the $680 billion defense budget is out, representing the agreement between the House and Senate on military spending for the next financial year. The text of the legislation is 1,515 pages long, and I’m still wading through it, but here are some highlights:

* No more money for the F-22, preserving Obama’s big headline. But plenty of other unrequested items made it into the final legislation.

* The bill asks for a study on selling the F-22 abroad, the latest tactic by the plane’s supporters to keep the production line open.

* At the eleventh hour in conference, negotiators added $560 million to develop a second engine for the F-136 Joint Strike Fighter plane. The White House had earlier threatened a veto if the second engine was funded, but Obama is expected to sign the bill anyway.

* It also includes money for 18 Super Hornet fighter jets—double the number than the Navy asked for.

* The bill contains a section on military commissions that forbids the interrogation of detainees by contractors; requires that all “strategic interrogations” be videotaped, and mandates that the Red Cross be allowed access to detainees held in Bagram, Afghanistan. (FYI, it also retires the tainted term “enemy combatant” from DOD lingo. They’re now “alien unprivileged enemy belligerents.”)

* Contains a hate crimes provision opposed by Republicans.

* Adds an extra $15 million to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office for oversight of contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* And perhaps my favorite: towards the end the bill calls for the Pentagon to fix its epicly busted accounting systems so that it can actually produce an auditable financial statement explaining where exactly its money goes. The deadline? “Not later than September 30, 2017.”

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