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$700 billion defense policy bill signed by Trump "paves" the way for more submarines

Before signing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act into law Tuesday, President Donald Trump highlighted some of its key provisions, saying it "paves the way for beautiful, new Virginia-class submarines, the finest in the world."

The law authorizes $700 billion in military spending in fiscal year 2018, in addition to more troops, more aircraft and more attack submarines.

Some of the key provisions for Connecticut:

  • About $8 billion for Virginia- and Columbia-class submarines built by Electric Boat.
  • Roughly $10 billion for 90 Joint Strike Fighters. Pratt & Whitney makes the engines.
  • $1 billion for 53 Black Hawks and $1 billion for 4 CH-53Ks, both made by Sikorsky.
  • $7 million to construct a base entry complex for the Connecticut National Guard at Bradley International Airport.

Lawmakers are grappling with how to pay for the measure given it is $85 billion above what's allowed by law.

"It's real horse trading going on right now in terms of leveraging the two sides toward an agreement," said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

Courtney pointed to ongoing discussions among lawmakers about lifting the budget caps on defense and nondefense spending, as has been done the past two years. "That allowed us enough space to get the National Defense Authorization Act, in both instances, funded pretty nicely" he said.

Courtney said he is OK with lifting the caps as long as the raises in defense and nondefense spending are equal or near equal. Though he said he's against a proposal by some Republicans to only lift the cap on defense spending.

"That would affect the VA, Homeland Security, and a whole host of national security programs that just don't fit in the Pentagon's budget," Courtney said. The Department of Energy, for example, "has a piece of submarine and carrier budgets in terms of the reactor. That's not paid for out of the Department of Defense. That's paid for out of the Department of Energy," he said.

Courtney said a spending deal isn't likely to come until early January as House Speaker Paul Ryan is eager to finish negotiations on the Republican tax bill before taking up the appropriations bill. That would mean Congress would have to pass another short-term spending measure to fund the government past Dec. 22.

j.bergman@theday.com

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