DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS – The bill includes $517.1 billion in base funding and $58.6 billion in Overseas Contingency (OCO) funding, an increase of $2.98 since the 2016 fiscal year, though $586.4 million less than President Obama’s request. The funding provides for a number of expenditures, including $8.32 billion for the F-35 & $43 billion for operations in Afghanistan while it also prohibits the retiring of the KC-10 aerial refueling tanker. H.R. 4909 authorizes the funding for the construction of facilities in conjunction of the Air Force squadron of C-17’s at the 911th Airlift Wing. It provides $22.8 million for the C-17 ADAL Fuel Hydrant System, $8.2 million for the C-17 Construction/Overlay Taxiway & Apron, & $54 million for the construction of two bay corrosion/fuel hangars. Having passed through the House in a 282-138 vote on June 16, the bill is now being considered in the Senate. On June 29, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the motion to take up the bill. However, on July 7, the motion to invoke cloture failed in a 50-44 vote.
MILCON-VA- This legislation provides for funding for housing, training, and equipment for military personnel and their families. It also contains funds for the maintenance of base infrastructure. Finally, this bill funds veterans’ programs and benefits. Most importantly, the bill provides the $85 million necessary for the C-17 squadron at the 911th. This legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding, $1.8 billion above FY 2016 levels. Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is increased by 3% from FY 2016 level. Additional funds are intended to increase the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of health services provided to veterans. Military construction funding was $250 million above the President’s request. This additional funding will provide for the contraction and maintenance of family housing, health facilities, and overseas facilities and infrastructures.
On May 19, the Senate passed its version of the FY 2017 appropriations bill on a vote of 89 – 8. The bill, H.R. 2577, was a minibus that included funding for transportation, veterans, and $1.1 billion for combatting the Zika virus. The bill allows Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to patients in states in which it has been legalized. The bill passed by the Senate includes $190.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory funds for military construction and veterans, and $114.2 billion for transportation and housing programs. After passage of bills in both chambers, a conference report of the two bills was created.
On June 23, the House adopted the conference report on the fiscal 2017 Transportation-HUD and Military Construction-VA appropriations omnibus in a 239-171 vote. In the Senate, attempts to limit debate through cloture on the conference report failed in a 52-48 vote on June 28. The Senate Republicans again failed to enact cloture on the bill before beginning their summer recess July 14.
ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS VETERANS JOBS PROGRAM – On July 6, President Obama signed HR 3114, which codifies the program under which the Army Corps of Engineers hires veterans and members of the Armed Forces to assist the Corps with curation and historic preservation activities. The Corps often unearths objects of archaeological significance in the course of its operation and spends between $3.5 & 4.5 million annually to support the hiring of veterans to assist in the preservation and cataloguing of artifacts.
TRANSPORTATION-HUD (THUD) – On May 19, the Senate passed a transportation funding measure as part of the minibus for transportation, veterans, and Zika funding. In addition to the details outlined in the previous section, the bill allows for $74.7 billion in transportation funding, $1.7 billion more than in fiscal 2016, and $2.5 billion less than requested. The House Appropriations Committee also passed its version of the bill (H.R. 5394) on May 24. The minibus is currently making its way through the Senate.
FAA REAUTHORIZATION – The extension bill (H. Res. 818) for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was approved in the House on July 11 by a voice vote. By unanimous consent, the Senate agreed to a vote on Wednesday, July 13. This bill extends the authority for FAA programs and relaxed taxes through September 30, 2017. Although this is not a long-term bill, it reflects a bipartisan compromise that provides for more than a year of certainty and includes a number of time sensitive safety and security provisions. Without this short-term extension, the FAA’s authority will expire on July 15.
FAST LANE – The Department of Transportation is getting final approval from congressional transportation committees before giving away $759 million for national highway and freight projects under its FASTLANE program. Under this funding, the National Park Service is slated to receive $90 million to reconstruct the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C. and Virginia is slated to receive $165 million for repairs intended to improve the I-95 corridor in Virginia. Projects to be completed under the FASTLANE grants require the Department of Transportation to notify the authorizing committees about projects within their jurisdiction selected to receive FASTLANE grants. The lawmakers then have 60 days to complete their review of the projects.
TSA SCREENING – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will install new screening technology at select airports this fall pursuant to their efforts to reduce wait times and improve security at checkpoints. Automated screening equipment will be deployed at hubs in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami. This equipment is already being tested in Atlanta and is estimated to reduce wait times by 30 percent. This 3D CT technology is expected to speed up the passenger screening process by allowing liquids, gels, aerosols, and laptops to remain in carry-on bags. If this pilot program is successful, the TSA says that the technology may be added to more checkpoints nationwide.