House approves defense policy bill

The U.S. House on Thursday passed the final version of an annual defense policy bill that increases military spending and revives a proposal pushed by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, to boost submarine construction. The House approved the $716 billion measure by a vote of 359-54.

Courtney, and his Republican colleague Rob Wittman of Virginia had requested an extra $1 billion in submarine funding that would pave the way for building additional attack submarines in the years 2022 and 2023. The idea was shot down by the Pentagon and congressional appropriators.

The bill gives the Pentagon the option to price out the cost of purchasing 12 attack submarines instead of 10 from 2019 to 2023. It also authorizes $10.9 billion in submarine funding, which is good news for Electric Boat in Groton.

Also of local interest, it also authorizes planning and design funding to prepare for future pier modernization and construction at the Naval Submarine Base.

The bill authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, the largest in nine years, weakens a bid to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE, and does not fund President Donald Trump's request for a new "Space Force" but authorizes a military parade Trump wants in Washington in November.

The House and Senate crafted and passed their own versions of the defense authorization bill, which select lawmakers, during recent negotiations, merged into a final bill. The Senate is expected to take up the final version of the measure as early as next week.

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