On May 12, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a $602 billion authorization bill by a vote of 23-3. The three Senators who voted no were reported as Deb Fischer (R-NB), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT). Cruz said he voted no because of the provision requiring women to register for the draft. Lee objected to that provision and the continuation of the Syria Train and Equip program. Sen. Fischer has not stated her reason for voting against the bill publicly.
The bill, S.2943, is expected to be considered this week and Chairman John McCain hopes to complete floor consideration before the Senate leaves for Memorial Day recess, though there are doubts that this will happen.
Some of the highlights of the bill:
Total funding in the bill: The bill approves $602 billion in discretionary spending, including $543 billion for base functions in the Pentagon budget plus nuclear weapons activities in the Department of Energy. In addition, there is $59 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget. Chairman McCain has said he will try to add $17 billion to the bill on the Senate floor.
The Senate NDAA would not adopt the fund scheme featured in the House bill, which used $18 billion in the OCO account to pay for base budget items.
National Security Council staff: Caps at 150 compared to a present size of about 400. The House’s bill looks to bring the number down to 100 by requiring the National Security Adviser to be confirmed by the Senate if NSC staff exceeds 100 (Section 1089).
Flag officers: Reduces the number of general and flag officers by 25% including a reduction of four-star billets from the current authorized level of 41 to 27 (Section 525).
Senior executive service civilians: Mandates a 25% cut in the number of Senior Executive Service employees in the Department of Defense.
Contractors: Requires a 25% cut in spending for contractors by 2019.
Women and the draft: Requires women to register for the draft (Section 591). The House Armed Services Committee also voted to require women to register, but the House leadership used an unusual procedure to eliminate that provision without a House floor vote.
Nuclear triad: Includes sense of Congress that the U.S. afford the highest priority to the modernization of the nuclear triad, dual-capable aircraft, and related command and control elements to counter Russian nuclear provocations while reassuring allies (Section 1654).
B-21 long-range bomber: Cuts the request by $302 million. Adds provisions to control costs of the new B-21, a program estimated to cost $100 billion but a total cost which the Air Force refuses to release. The committee requires the Air Force to release the value of 2015 Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) program contract to begin work on the program, but not the full cost of the program (Sections 217, 844).
New strategic nuclear submarine: Authorizes $1.5 billion for the Ohio-class submarine replacement program.
Dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons: Bars acceleration of dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons (Section 3113)
Cooperative threat reduction program: Authorizes $325.6 million compared to $358.5 last year (Section 1302).
Missile defense: Eliminates the 17-year old restriction on missile defense programs in order to permit work on an expanded missile defense, potentially against Russian and Chinese missiles, a provision offered by Sen. Cruz (Section 1665). Authorizes $7.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, including an additional $115 million to modernize U.S. homeland missile defenses.
Missile defense testing: Requires a once-a-year flight test of the ground-based midcourse missile defense system that includes, when possible, for one or more of the following (Section 1661):
(1) The validation of technical improvements made to increase system performance and reliability.
(2) The evaluation of the operational effectiveness of the ground-based midcourse defense element of the ballistic missile defense system.
(3) The use of threat-representative targets and critical engagement conditions.
(4) The evaluation of new configurations of interceptors before they are fielded.
(5) The satisfaction of the `fly before buy’ acquisition approach for new interceptor components or software.
(6) The evaluation of the interoperability of the ground-based midcourse defense element with other elements of the ballistic missile defense systems.
The provision also provides a wide range of exceptions for why the Missile Defense Agency could forgo a test, including “any other condition the Director considers appropriate.”
Space-based missile defense: Requires an annual report on space-based missile defense and providing authority to begin RDT&E on a potential program (Section 1663).
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Authorizes $10.5 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programs, including $8.5 billion to buy 63 jets: 43 F-35As, 16 F-35Bs, and 4 F-35Cs. and devolves responsibility for the program to the Air Force and Navy instead of a joint office.
New aircraft: Authorizes $2.2 billion for procurement of 11 P-8 Poseidon aircraft and $185 million for 2 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft.
A-10 Warthog: Bars A-10 retirement (Section 141).
Army aircraft: Authorizes $2.6 billion for the procurement of Army aircraft including 52 AH-64 Apaches, 36 UH-60 Blackhawks, and 22 CH-47 Chinooks.
Nuclear attack submarines: Authorizes $5 billion to procure two Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines and provide for advance procurement of future Virginia-class submarines.
Destroyers: Authorizes $3.3 billion for the procurement of 2 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Pay raise: Approves the Pentagon’s proposed 1.6% pay increase for troops; the House voted for a 2.1% increase (Section 601).
Base closings: Bars a new round of base closures (Section 2702).
Guantanamo Bay prison: Bars the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison (Section 1021) or spending on alternative facilities in the U.S. (Section 1022), although permitting the Pentagon to study designing and planning modifications in the U.S. (Section 1023).
Aid to Ukraine: Authorizes up to $500 million to provide security assistance to Ukraine, including lethal assistance (Section 1231).
Afghanistan: Authorizes $3.4 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.
European Reassurance Initiative: Authorizes $3.4 billion to support the European Reassurance Initiative, explained to demonstrate resolve against the Russia.
Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX): Adds an additional $70 million to a new total of $340 million to the construction of the MOX facility and directs the Department of Energy to continue with construction.