WASHINGTON, DC – Following months of hearings, bipartisan negotiations, and a Presidential veto, the full U.S. Senate today voted 91-3 to pass the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The $599.2 billion defense bill authorizes spending and policy for the U.S. Department of Defense for fiscal year 2016. 

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, said this modified and improved version of the NDAA will help maintain a strong, flexible military while providing critical support for our troops and their families.  The bill increases military pay by 1.3 percent and includes critical tools for the Navy’s modernization efforts, as well as ongoing operations in Afghanistan, countering ISIL, strengthening our cybersecurity defenses, and preparing for evolving and emerging threats around the globe. 

An earlier version of the NDAA was opposed by Senator Reed and vetoed by President Obama because it included an inefficient budget gimmick that underfunded the Pentagon’s base budget while inflating the emergency war spending account known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which is exempted from Budget Control Act spending caps.  The vetoed version of the NDAA would have included nearly $90 billion in OCO funding.  The modified version passed by Congress today includes about $59 billion for OCO, which is more in line with what the military says it needs for the overseas emergency war fund account.  And Democrats and Republicans on the committee were able to work together in a bipartisan fashion to make adjustments that achieve $5 billion in overall budget savings in the modified version of the bill.

“This is a leaner, smarter NDAA than the vetoed version,” said Reed.  “It responsibly provides the military with the resources and clarity it needs without an overreliance on OCO and trims $5 billion in unneeded spending.  This modified version reins in some excessive and unnecessary spending and more accurately reflects the costs of our current overseas military operations.  It also provides the Department of Defense with some additional budgetary stability and flexibility to plan for the future.”

Reed also noted that the bill recognizes the strategic importance Rhode Island plays in our national defense.

As the committee’s Ranking Member, Reed authored key sections of the NDAA designed to strengthen our naval readiness and boost submarine manufacturing, which is a vital part of Rhode Island’s defense industry.  Reed helped ensure the 2016 Defense Authorization 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.

“This modified NDAA contains important investments in maintaining a strong military and addressing future national security challenges, with an emphasis on readiness and preparing for emerging threats around the globe,” noted Reed.  “Rhode Island’s defense sector is important to our economy and our industrial base, and it plays an outsized role in safeguarding our nation.  Over the last several years, we’ve made strategic investments to ensure Rhode Island is a high-tech hub of undersea technologies now and in the foreseeable future.  And Rhode Island workers are helping the Navy develop and build the next generation of submarines.  So this bill continues to build on some of those investments.”

A number of Rhode Island-related projects and priorities are included in this bipartisan defense bill, such as:

  • $5.34 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, including advance procurement for two ships planned in 2017.  The bill supports the ten boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed.
  • $506.6 million for the Navy’s basic research program, $55 million more than the President’s budget request.
  • $433.4 million for the DDG-1000 destroyer program.
  • $142.3 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied research, an increase of $18.6 million over the President’s budget request.
  • $93.36 million for advanced submarine system development and to accelerate unmanned underwater vehicle development.
  • $60.2 million for development of submarine tactical warfare systems and to help accelerate submarine combat and weapons system modernization.
  • $20 million for the procurement of 8 additional towed array sensor systems, a priority for the Navy.
  • $5 million in Impact Aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.
  • Reauthorization of the Rapid Innovation Fund through 2023 and the National Guard State Partnership Program for 5 years.
  • Several new authorities for defense labs, like the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), that include the ability to more flexibly fund the construction of modern research facilities; to develop partnerships with small businesses and other industry partners on joint research and development projects; and to facilitate hiring well-qualified student interns as full-time employees.

The NDAA bill also reflects other key priorities backed by Senator Reed to sustain and improve the quality of life for our men and women in uniform and their families.  The bill provides a new retirement system for future service members that better addresses the needs of tomorrow’s recruits and their families while grandfathering in the current force; authorizes $167 billion for Military Personnel and the Defense Health Program; and authorizes $85 million for the enhanced financial literacy training associated with the new retirement system.

In addition, the bill improves handling of military sexual assault crimes by enhancing confidential reporting options for victims of sexual assault by exempting sexual assault response personnel from mandatory reporting requirements under state law, and expanding the authority of the Special Victims’ Counsel to provide services to victims of sexual assault.

Now that the bill has been approved by both the House and the Senate, it will soon be sent to President Obama to be signed into law.