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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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