WASHINGTON - The A-10 Warthog, military bases scattered around the country, and the generous housing allowance for service members survived the budget knife early Thursday morning as a House panel rebuffed Pentagon pleas and approved a $601 billion defense bill that spares ships, planes, and benefits.
On a unanimous vote, the Armed Services Committee backed the legislation that authorizes overall spending for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The blueprint spared excess military bases, the U-2 spy plane, Navy cruisers and an 11th aircraft carrier as parochial interests prevailed in an election year.
The full House is expected to consider the legislation the week of May 19. The bill would have to be reconciled with a still-to-be-written Senate version.
In an all-day, all-night session, the panel voted overwhelmingly to provide $635 million for the Air Force's A-10 close-air support aircraft, rejecting the service's plan to retire the jet.
The bill also prevents the Pentagon from moving ahead with another round of base closures and rejects any Pentagon effort to force service members to pay slightly more for off-base housing.
The panel's actions came a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appealed for fiscal restraint.
"Sustaining our edge in the face of new strategic and fiscal challenges will require Congress' partnership in making tough choices, always looking at our broader national interests instead of narrow constituencies," Hagel said.
The overall spending level matches a deficit-driven, bipartisan budget agreement and reflects a new phase for the Pentagon after more than a decade of war. That forced lawmakers to make trade-offs, pinching the budget for operations and maintenance by $1.4 billion to cover the cost of favored ships and planes.