The House Armed Services Committee is supporting a plan by U.S. Rep Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, that would extend construction of Boeing’s F/A 18 Super Hornets at the company’s St. Louis plant. Hartzler, a member of both the Armed Services Committee and the House Budget Committee, wants $1.1 billion for the construction of 12 additional Super Hornets.
Hartzler told St. Louis Public Radio that if the funding is approved it would add at least six months to Boeing’s production of the aircraft, with two planes manufactured each month. “It will keep the line going longer, and that’s what our goal is until we can get to next fiscal year (when) hopefully we’ll be able to stop sequestration and get even more money into the budget.”
In March, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told Congress that the Navy is facing a looming shortage of as many as 36 fighters. An online story published at the time by the U.S. Naval Institute quotes Greenert as saying, “We’re finding that it’s very complicated and it’s harder than we imagined.” Newer Super Hornets are being used to fill the voil and are burning up flying hours at a faster rate than planned, he said.
Hartzler’s request is in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA presents the national defense priorities of Congress. On Wednesday, committee members spent hours marking up the bill – a process where committee members read through each item and make recommendations as to which amendments they want the lawmakers to adopt when the measure gets to the full House.
In December, lawmakers approved funding to keep Boeing’s production line open through the end of 2017. Hartzler says she hopes this funding request will keep production going long enough for Congress to deal with deep cuts in defense spending brought on by sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011. Should lawmakers reach a compromise on sequestration, Hartzler would like to see even more money budgeted for Boeing’s production line.
“I worked hard as a member of the Budget committee to get additional money put into our budget so that we have the bare minimum that we need, and that is very, very important, but we need to go and undo sequestration … and there’s a lot of discussion about doing that perhaps later on in the year with a major budget deal.”
If negotiators succeed in working out differences between House and Senate Budget resolutions, it would mean the two chambers, now in Republican hands, would back the same list of spending priorities for the first time in more than five years.