WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate is set to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 as debate begins on the chamber floor today.

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will lead the floor debate on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets forth the Pentagon’s budget and major programs for the next fiscal year, starting October 1. 

The NDAA authorizes funding to equip, supply, and train our troops and provide for military families.  Overall, the 2018 NDAA supports a total defense budget of nearly $700 billion, including $610.87 billion in discretionary spending for defense base budget requirements and $60.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.  It also includes $21 billion for U.S. Department of Energy-related activities, resulting in a top-line funding level of $692 billion for discretionary national defense spending.

McCain and Reed helped guide the bipartisan bill to unanimous approval by the Senate Armed Services Committee.  During the markup of the NDAA, 277 amendments—offered by both Republican and Democratic members—were considered and adopted.  More than 1,000 amendments have been submitted to the NDAA for consideration on the floor and debate is expected on a range of hot button issues, including: war authorizations; military base closures; transgender troops; detention of enemy combatants; Navy shipbuilding; and more.

“I am committed to strengthening our military and ensuring it has the capability, readiness, and resources needed to protect the American people and our interests around the globe.  This year’s NDAA focuses on a range of national security challenges, with an emphasis on readiness and preparing for emerging threats,” said Reed.  “I salute Chairman McCain for his leadership and look forward to working with our colleagues to provide for our national defense and ensure America has the strongest military in the world.”

A detailed summary of the 2018 NDAA may be found here.  Additional national security highlights of the bill include:

North Korea:  Authorizes additional funding above the budget request to make upgrades to our ground-based Midcourse Defense system and purchase 24 additional THAAD interceptors, a regional defensive system that we have deployed to the Republic of Korea.

Enhances our security cooperation in the Pacific by authorizing the Asia Pacific Stability Initiative, which will help strengthen our posture in the region, and provide additional support and security assistance to our partners and allies.

Russia:  Contains significant resources, through the European Deterrence Initiative and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to reinforce our military presence in Europe and build the capacity of the NATO alliance to counter Russia’s efforts to intimidate and coerce its neighbors.

Takes critical steps to prepare for any attempt by Russia to attack our democracy in next year’s mid-term elections.  One provision states that it is the policy of the United States to respond, using all instruments of national power, to any and all cyber attacks that intend to cause significant harm to the nation, including undermining U.S. democratic society.  This is a clear message to Vladimir Putin that Kremlin interference is unacceptable and will be strongly answered. 

Requires the Secretary of Defense to create a task force to integrate all Defense Department organizations that are responsible for what is called “information warfare” in order to achieve a unified and coherent capability to counter, deter, and conduct strategic information operations. 

Provides a critical step toward ensuring we have the strategy, organization, and resources necessary to counter the complex challenge posed by Russia’s malign activities. 

Overseas Operations:  Provides needed authorities and funding for our military personnel who are engaged in operations abroad.  Through the support of our partners on the ground, we continue to make significant gains against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  However, our partners require sustained support to clear the remaining ISIS strongholds and ensure a sustainable security environment going forward.  Therefore, this bill authorizes $1.8 billion to support the Iraq and Syria train-and-equip programs while extending and clarifying the mandate of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.

The bill also includes $4.9 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to assist our Afghan partners as they continue to take the fight to the enemy while also working diligently to build and professionalize their security forces.  This is a critical investment for the stability of the region and the security of the international community.

Navy and Marine Corps:  Improves the readiness of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, ships, and weapons systems.  It is clear that high operational tempo coupled with limited resources for training and maintenance have contributed to the recent tragedies with the USS John S. McCain, USS Fitzgerald, and the V-22 crash off the coast of Australia.  We must prioritize resourcing for our military leaders so that we can ensure our servicemembers have access to the best equipment and training possible.

Provides authority for another multiyear contract for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program and provides the Navy the authority to buy as many as fifteen Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  It also adds $1.8 billion to buy a third destroyer in fiscal year 2018. 

Authorizes $1 billion for incremental funding for construction of an amphibious ship and more than $1.2 billion for several auxiliary ship programs, including five “Surface Connectors” and one Expeditionary Sea Base.

Authorizes ten additional F/A-18s fighters, ten F-35 fighter variants, four more KC-130J tankers, and six additional P-8A submarine hunters.

Submarines:  Provides significant investments in our next-generation Virginia-class submarines to ensure our Navy remains dominant under the sea.  It authorizes multiyear procurement contract authority and advance procurement for up to thirteen Virginia-class submarines.  In addition, the bill would add $750 million for economic order quantity material for the Virginia-class Block 5 multiyear procurement program.  The Navy will be able to use this funding to expand the industrial base across the second and third tier contractors, anticipating an increase in production needed to increase submarine force levels.  An additional $450 million is authorized to provide additional support for expanding the industrial base or for advance procurement to buy an additional Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2020.

Air Force:  Makes major increases in the Air Force by authorizing an additional $10.4 billion for Air Force programs to purchase fourteen additional F-35A fighters, twelve MC-130J aircraft, three more KC-46A tankers, and authorizing funding for the A-10 replacement program, among others.

Army:  Authorizes full funding for the Department’s request for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters.  In addition, the bill supports the Army’s unfunded requirement for additional Apaches by including $312.7 million to procure additional helicopters.

Helps modernize Army ground combat vehicles, including M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and the Stryker combat vehicle.

Special Operations:  Fully funds U.S. Special Operations Command, and includes an increase of approximately $85 million to help address unfunded requirements for additional intelligence collection, precision strike, undersea mobility, and communications capabilities.  Additionally, the bill includes a new authority designed to support the ability of our special operators to work with partners to counter irregular warfare or so-called “Gray Zone” challenges posed by our adversaries.

Nuclear Deterrent:  Authorizes funding to modernize our triad of nuclear-capable air, sea, and ground delivery platforms—the bedrock of our defense posture against an existential threat.  The B-21 heavy bomber is authorized at the requested level to continue engineering, manufacturing, and development to be fielded in the mid-to-late 2020’s.

Turning to the area of undersea deterrence, if we are to maintain a sea-based deterrent, the current fleet of 14 Ohio-class submarines must be replaced starting in 2027 due to the potential for hull fatigue.  By then, the first Ohio submarine will be 46 years old--the oldest submarine to have sailed in our Navy in its history.

The third leg of our triad, our land-based ICBMs, will not need to be replaced until the 2030s.  We have authorized continued development of a replacement for this responsive leg of the triad, which acts as a counterbalance to hostile ICBMs.

Energy & Climate Change:  Enhances how the Department of Energy pursues energy resilience, which directly supports the readiness and mission assurance of our warfighters.  Additionally, this bill contains a defense threat assessment and master plan on climate related-events, and a comprehensive strategy and technology roadmap on how the Department can better use water.

Science and Technology:  Authorizes increases in funding for science and technology research efforts by over $375 million above the President's request, including a total of $2.3 billion for university research programs.  These programs are critical to ensuring that our military retains its technological battlefield superiority in areas like cybersecurity, unmanned and robotic systems, high energy lasers, space, and hypersonics. 

Streamlines the ability to access expertise and technologies in our nation’s universities and small businesses, whose expertise and innovation is the cornerstone of the technologies on which our military depends.  Additionally, it continues efforts to strengthen the capabilities of our defense labs and test ranges, including removing red tape that inhibits their effectiveness, and supporting their efforts to build world class technical workforces.  The bill also authorizes two new innovation offices, the Strategic Capabilities Office and the DIUX Silicon Valley office, with special authorities to hire the unique program management talent they need to execute their innovative activities.

Acquisition Reform:  Continues efforts to streamline procurement practices to support the Pentagon's efforts to obtain the best goods, technologies, and services on a timely basis and at fair and competitive prices.  The bill also makes significant and needed changes to the way the Pentagon buys software, moving toward more agile and effective commercial acquisition practices that should allow DOD to build and buy the most modern software and IT for our weapons systems, platforms, and business systems.  It also includes a provision from Senator McCaskill that will provide more transparency and require more deliberate planning in the use of service contractors, to try to control this rapidly growing part of the Pentagon budget.

Audit:  Improves financial stewardship and helps the Pentagon finally get a clean audit opinion on its financial books.  The Pentagon has been trying to obtain a clean audit opinion for twenty-seven years, and the continual failure to do so calls into questions its ability to steward the large funding increases proposed in this bill transparently and efficiently.

Personnel:  Authorizes a 2.1 percent pay raise for all service members, and reauthorizes a number of expiring bonus and special pay authorities to encourage enlistment, reenlistment, and continued service by active-duty and reserve component military personnel.  The bill permanently extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance, scheduled to expire next year, provides $25 million in supplemental impact aid, and $10 million in impact aid for severe disabilities, including $5 million available for the Secretary to direct to schools to address areas with higher concentrations of disabled military children.  This legislation also enhances military family readiness by addressing the shortage of qualified childcare workers and by increasing flexibility for military families undergoing permanent change of station.

A provision in the bill also addresses the Marines United situation by making the nonconsensual sharing of photos and videos of an individual’s private parts or of sexually explicit conduct involving the individual a criminal offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, even when the initial taking of the photo or video was consensual.

Healthcare:  Contains a package of health care reforms, including modest increases to working-age retiree health care cost shares, while ensuring that the cost shares remain far below those required by civilian plans.  The bill also requires the Department to establish a Medicare Advantage demonstration program for TRICARE-For-Life beneficiaries that will achieve better health outcomes for beneficiaries with chronic health conditions as well as cost savings for the beneficiaries and for the Medicare and TRICARE programs.

Reed also noted that while many in Congress agree that the Pentagon requires additional resources, these funding levels do not adhere to the spending limits mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  If enacted and funded at these levels, sequestration would be triggered, thereby wiping out about $88 billion through across-the-board cuts. 

“We must come together to address the insufficient funding caps in the BCA, and we must do so for both defense and nondefense accounts,” stated Reed.  “Since the Budget Control Act was enacted in 2011, we have made repeated incremental changes to the discretionary budget caps for both defense and nondefense accounts.  We have done so in order to provide some budget certainty to the Department of Defense and also to domestic agencies.  I believe that if defense funds are increased, funding for domestic agencies must also be increased.  In addition, and this is a point that I think all of us acknowledge, our national security is broader than simply the accounts in the Department of Defense.  It is the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and many other agencies that contribute to our national security.

“Furthermore, the wellbeing of our nation – what our men and women in uniform are fighting for – depends on funded and functioning domestic agencies.  For example, our nation has been entirely focused for the past two weeks on two massive hurricanes that have hit Texas and Florida.  Tens of thousands of Americans need help – and the federal agencies that are integrally involved in providing that help include: the Center for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the Small Business Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Social Security Administration.  Providing for the security of Americans requires the whole of government, and it should all be funded fairly.  We should remain responsible stewards of taxpayers’ money while also ensuring we provide sufficient funds to meet the needs of our nation,” concluded Reed.

The NDAA is scheduled to be considered by the full U.S. Senate this week.  A similar measure is working its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.  Once both the Senate and House pass their versions of the bill, they must be reconciled and approved before a final version may be sent to the President to be signed into law.