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​MC-130Js assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron fly in formation Feb. 17, 2016, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The Air Force has requested 12 more MC-130Js in its Fiscal 2018 unfunded priorities list. Air Force photo by SrA. Peter Reft.

—Wilson Brissett

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reminded Congress on Thursday that it has the power to authorize more money than President Donald Trump requested for the Defense Department in his Fiscal 2018 budget.

Though Mattis defended Trump’s $574 billion DOD base budget, which he said will “start reversing the damage and get us on the right track as we get the strategy right,” he said the $33 billion unfunded priorities list is “an area where the Congress can exercise its oversight and its purse strings, frankly.”

The Air Force submitted $10.7 billion in unfunded priorities for FY18. More than half of that amount ($6.7 billion) would be earmarked for readiness and modernization, including money for 14 more F-35As, three more KC-46s, and 12 more MC-130Js.

Other unfunded modernization priorities include $69 million for nuclear command, control, and communications systems and $99 million for handheld military GPS user equipment.

A $450 million increase in weapons systems sustainment spending, which promotes aircraft availability and full-spectrum training, would bring the service to 92 percent of its sustainment target. The President’s Budget request would leave sustainment at 89 percent.

The unfunded list also includes $848 million for maintenance backlogs that remain unfunded in the Fiscal 2018 budget request, as well as $146 million in readiness spending. In new program development, the Air Force includes $147 million for its Penetrating Counter Air program and $70 million for directed energy prototyping.