The House and Senate on Thursday released the compromise text of their fiscal 2024 defense spending bill, nearly halfway through the fiscal year that began in October.

Congress is expected to begin votes on the $825 billion defense spending bill on Friday; Pentagon funding via a stopgap measure is slated to expire at the end of that same day. The bipartisan bill adheres to the spending caps imposed by last year’s debt ceiling deal. It funds the procurement of eight battle ships and dozens of new aircraft, provides a small amount of Ukraine military aid and offers multiyear procurement for six critical munitions.

“As chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, I have prioritized five areas that are reflected in this act: countering China and staying ahead of our adversaries; prioritizing innovation of military superiority, achieving a more efficient and effective Pentagon; enhancing the military’s role in countering efforts and supporting our servicemembers and their families,” Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said in a statement.

The bill includes $33.5 billion to build eight ships and allocates funds for 86 F-35 and 24 F-15 EX fighter jets as well as 15 KC-46A tankers. There’s also a combined $2.1 billion for the Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon and the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic weapons system.

The bill retains $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the Pentagon to place contracts for equipment to send Kyiv. House Republican leaders had initially removed the $300 million in Ukraine aid amid opposition from the right flank of their caucus when they narrowly passed their version of the defense spending bill 218-210 in September.

But even with the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funds back in the bill, the $300 million is far less than the $60 billion in security and economic support for Kyiv provided in the Senate’s foreign aid bill. The Senate passed the aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan 70-29 in February but House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has so far refused to put it on the floor amid opposition from former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Separately, the compromise defense spending bill includes funding for multiyear contracts to procure six critical munitions: the Naval Strike Missile, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, the PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3, the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile and the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.

Multiyear contracts are usually reserved for big-ticket purchases like ships and aircraft, but the Pentagon hopes using them for munitions will ensure demand stability to encourage defense contractors to ramp up production capacity. Defense appropriators granted the Pentagon’s request to use multiyear contracts for all but one munition: the Standard Missile-6. The defense-industrial base has struggled to quickly replenish the billions of dollars worth of munitions drawn down from U.S. stockpiles for Ukraine.

The FY24 defense policy bill, which Congress passed in December, authorizes multiyear contracts for six additional munitions outside the Pentagon’s request. But the FY24 defense spending bill does not fund those additional multiyear contracts.

War games hosted by the House China Committee in April found the U.S. would rapidly run out of munitions — including the SM-6, Naval Strike Missile and Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile — in a war with Beijing in the Pacific. That committee endorsed multiyear munitions buys as part of a series of 10 bipartisan recommendations on Taiwan it drafted in May.

Additionally, the bill provides an $800 million boost to the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, for a total budget of $983 million in FY24. It also provides $200 million for Replicator, the Pentagon’s effort to buy and field thousands of drones by next August.

Finally, the legislation cuts funding for the Defense Department civilian workforce by $1 billion.

The compromise bill eliminates many of the amendments Republicans introduced when they passed their version of the bill in September. That includes an amendment from Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., that would have reduced Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary to $1.

The bill also drops a priority a proposal championed by Calvert that would have moved Mexico from U.S. Northern Command to Southern Command. Calvert argued last year this would “prioritize combatting the trafficking of fentanyl by Mexican drug cartels.”

Although Mexico will remain in Northern Command, the bill includes a $50 million increase to counter illicit fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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