Reed Statement on Bipartisan House-Senate NDAA Conference Agreement
NDAA authorizes funding for 2 Virginia-class submarines, accelerates national security innovation, eliminates ‘widow’s tax’ on Gold Star families, and expands paid family leave for millions of workers
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House-Senate conference committee reached a bicameral agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020.
The reconciled FY 2020 NDAA defense policy bill authorizes $658.4 billion for the Department of Defense and for national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy, $71.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, and $5.3 billion in emergency funding to restore installations that were damaged by extreme weather and natural disasters. A summary of the conference report is available here.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), worked on the bill with SASC Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), and U.S. Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committees (HASC).
The NDAA includes a number of key provisions and reforms that were backed by Senator Reed to enhance national security, support our service members, and improve military training and readiness. The bill also implements the most substantial overhaul of the Privatized Military Housing Initiative since the program’s creation in 1996. The bill authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for our troops, the largest in a decade, and reflects a policy shift to accelerate defense innovation and establishes inclusive pathways for the most promising small businesses to commercialize their innovations for the DOD market. The NDAA also strengthens congressional oversight of cyber operations, and enhances the Department of Defense’s cybersecurity strategy and cyber warfare capabilities.
Additionally, the bill helps guarantee civil servants receive 12 weeks of paid leave in the event of the birth or adoption of a child. Currently, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not have paid parental leave.
Senator Reed, a cosponsor of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to create a universal, gender-neutral paid family and medical leave program, who has long advocated for expanding paid family leave for all employees, stated: “Including paid family leave is a victory for all workers because it will help push more employers in the right direction and ensure more workers get paid family leave. Expanding access to paid family leave helps the health and economic well-being of individuals who have it and strengthens the ability of employers to retain their workers.”
Notably, Senator Reed also helped include a key provision to repeal the “widow’s tax,” which has shortchanged many military spouses on the amount of survivor annuity payments they could collect as part of a Veteran’s Affairs benefit called the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation program. Currently, over 62,000 Gold Star families are impacted by the “widow's tax.” The NDAA repeal, which will be phased in over three years, will ensure our service members' families receive the benefits they have paid for and earned.
Reed also led efforts to include language in the bill to strengthen naval readiness and submarine production, which are crucial to Rhode Island’s defense industry. Senator Reed helped ensure the bill continues the construction of two Virginia-class submarines per year, which is critical given the cost savings achieved, the efficiencies gained in the production schedule, and the projected shortfall in attack submarines over the next decade.
“In a time of significant discord, this NDAA represents a responsible compromise that strengthens our national defense capabilities. This conference agreement enhances military readiness, makes needed reforms, and provides our Armed Forces with the equipment and training needed to deter our adversaries and respond to global threats. Critically, it authorizes the funds needed to build the next generation of submarines. These multi-mission submarines, which are a vital part of America’s nuclear triad, are essential for power projection, deterrence, intelligence, and sea control. And recognizing the critical link between the quality of life for our troops and their families, and the overall quality, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces, this conference report includes critical reforms and protections needed to improve military housing and hold contractors accountable. And it provides our troops with a much needed, well-deserved pay raise. There are several environmental and Middle East policy items I fought to the end for, but could not get past staunch Administration and Republican opposition. Those will be back on my list of priorities as we start this process next year,” said Senator Reed.
Senator Reed highlighted a number of Rhode-Island related provisions in the NDAA that are good news for the state’s hardworking defense community, including:
- $8.4 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, which supports the nine boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed earlier this month;
- $2.25 billion to fully support the Columbia-class (Ohio-class Replacement) Program, including an additional $123 million to support submarine industrial base expansion;
- $11.6 million in military construction funding to replace a fuels storage facility at Quonset State Airport;
- $156 million for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program;
- $10 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied resear$40 million in supplemental Impact Aid and $10 million in Impact Aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.
The NDAA also reflects other priorities backed by Senator Reed to sustain and improve the quality of life for our men and women in uniform and their families, and the Department’s civilian workforce. The bill includes a number of provisions to address employment challenges faced by military spouses and provides the authority for federal agencies to reimburse civilian employees for the tax-related consequences of government-provided moves, an issue especially important for DOD teachers stationed overseas, and ensures that the authority is retroactive to January 1, 2018. NDAA conference report authorizes the Secretary of Defense to initiate a program to build the legal institutional capacity of foreign security forces so they operate consistently with the law of armed conflict and human rights law. This initiative will draw substantially on the expertise of the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies located at Naval Station Newport.
Now that the NDAA conference report has been agreed to by members of the conference committee, it must be voted on and passed by both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill this week.
The NDAA authorizes the expenditure of public funds and then the Appropriations Committee must determine the final level of defense spending. Senator Reed is also a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Appropriators have until midnight on December 20 to reach an agreement on next steps for funding the federal government.
Congress has passed the NDAA for 58 straight years.