Defense Bill Funds Space Force, Pay Raises

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 20, 2019) -- The $738 billion defense spending bill signed into law today by President Donald J. Trump funds the largest pay increases in a decade and the creation of the U.S. Space Force.

Defense officials said service members and families will benefit from a $19.5 billion increase of the Defense Department's 2019 funding, including a 3.1% pay raise for military and civilian personnel and paid parental leave for civilians.

"This is a well-deserved pay raise for the men and women of the military, who continue to make great sacrifices for the nation as they stand watch all over the world to protect America," Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said. "It will also ensure that we continue to recruit our country's best talent into the armed forces."

The fiscal year 2020 budget gives the DOD a $622.6 billion base budget, $70.6 billion for overseas contingency operations and $1.8 billion in emergency funding. The overall defense budget also includes funding in separate authorizations for military construction and $8.1 billion in emergency defense funds.

During a briefing today at the Pentagon, Esper thanked Congress and the president for getting the department funded and for establishing the Space Force -- something he noted for its historical significance.

"This historic initiative ... will posture us to effectively defend our national interests in space," the secretary said. "The last time we developed a new branch of the military was over 70 years ago when we separated the Air Corps from the Army in 1947, creating the U.S. Air Force."

Esper said that because the United States relies so heavily on space for commerce and defense and because space has evolved into a new warfighting domain, it's only appropriate that there be a new service to focus on defending U.S. interests there.

"Maintaining American dominance in that domain is now the mission of the U.S. Space Force," he said, adding that details about implementation and the timeline for the new service will be announced in the next few weeks.

Esper said the new bill also supports taking care of military families. Included in the law are: programs to offset the costs of professional licenses for military spouses; reforms to privatized base housing; and provisions to increase childcare capacity on military installations -- including $110 million across the services for child care programs.

"These are all very important to the readiness of the force and follow through on our commitment to take care of our service members and their families," the secretary said.

Also included in the bill is $108 million for the hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor, as well as $230.9 million to accelerate hypersonic defense programs within the Missile Defense Agency.

The Congress has provided $1.87 billion for 20 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, $23.9 billion for 14 battle force ships and $1.7 billion for upgrades to Abrams tanks.

"We appreciate this strong demonstration of bipartisan support from the House and the Senate," Esper said. "This legislation is a big step forward and will enable the department to adapt to the challenges posed by great power competitors."