WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to safeguard the nation, the U.S. Senate voted 86-14 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021.  This legislation authorizes funding levels and sets policies to equip, supply, and train our troops and provide for military families.  The FY21 NDAA supports a total of $740.5 billion for national defense programs, including a base budget of $662.3 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy and $69 billion for overseas contingency operations.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Committee, who helped steer the bipartisan bill through the Senate, says the FY21 NDAA will strengthen military readiness, protect our forces and their families, and support the defense industrial base. 

A similar but separate version of the NDAA was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week.  The next step in the process is a House-Senate conference committee to iron out differences and reach a final compromise, which must then be approved by each chamber before a final version may be sent to the President to be signed into law.  

Both the Senate and House-passed versions include language to establish a process for removing the names of Confederate leaders from military bases.  President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the defense bill if that language is not removed, but Senator Reed says the bipartisan provision has strong support and he is committed to keeping it in the final bill.

“President Trump should prioritize national security and the needs of today’s servicemen and women over his wrong-headed campaign to fuel division and discord,” said Senator Reed.  “If President Trump vetoes this vital bill over Confederate base names he’ll be on the wrong side of history trying to defend pro-slavery men who were on the wrong side of history.  The diverse men and women of today’s United States Armed Forces are united in defending our nation and serving a cause greater than themselves.  We should put their interests ahead of those who fought to preserve slavery.  If the President vetoes their pay raise in an attempt to get his way, it will severely backfire and he should be overridden by Congress.”

Reed noted that the NDAA provides our troops with a well-deserved pay raise and tools to protect the health and well-being of our forces and their families.  It also takes important steps to strengthen alliances and reduce America’s dependence on items from peer competitors while establishing a new Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative. 

“I salute Chairman Inhofe for his bipartisan leadership.  The FY21 NDAA strengthens our military and bolsters our capacity to effectively defend America from evolving security challenges.  Notably, this bipartisan bill will improve our strategic advantages by investing in integrated technologies and platforms that improve deterrence,” said Senator Reed.  “Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner.  This bipartisan NDAA is an important step toward that goal.  Now we must meet in conference with the House to iron out some differences and develop a unified defense bill that enhances national security and provides our troops with decisive, lasting advantages and powerful, force-multiplying assets.”

Senator Reed continued: “While I do not support every provision in this bill, it makes important investments in readiness, modernization, and force protection and includes several needed reforms.  The NDAA also authorizes much-needed submarine funding to preserve and prepare for the vital work being done in Rhode Island to advance the next generation of undersea technologies.  Congress must work on a bipartisan basis to ensure our forces have the right tools and capabilities to combat threats around the globe and I will continue working in conference to achieve that objective.”

The NDAA includes a number of key provisions that were championed by Senator Reed to enhance national security, support our service members, and strengthen our nation’s maritime capacity and capabilities.  The bill includes a provision that would authorize hazardous duty pay for service members responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The bill also bolsters the defense industrial base by ensuring that the Berry Amendment, which supports the textile industry and other American manufacturers, applies to more Defense Department purchases and by requiring that the Defense Department speed contract payments to small businesses.  An amendment was also adopted that directs DOD to identify a specific individual responsible for working with universities to address issues related to undue influence on and theft of academic research conducted for the Department.

Notably, the bill includes language that establishes a commission process which will review base names honoring Confederate leaders, seek public input, and result in the Pentagon renaming bases and other assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America (CSA).  No later than three years after enactment of the NDAA, the DOD shall remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the CSA or any person who voluntarily served in the CSA from all assets of DOD.

Senator Reed also helped include key funding for the Navy’s modernization efforts – including submarine construction – and policies designed to strengthen our cybersecurity defenses, improve readiness, and prepare for evolving and emerging threats around the globe.  The NDAA also helps provide certainty and stability for the nation’s supply chain and industrial base workforce to move forward with critical programs and acquisitions and keep employees on the job.

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

•  $4.63 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, including an additional $472 million for long-lead material for an option boat.  The bill supports the nine-boat, multi-year Block V contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in December 2019.  The contract included an option for one additional submarine, which this bill supports by authorizing necessary advance procurement funding in fiscal year 2021;

•  $4.2 billion to fully support the Columbia-class (Ohio-class Replacement) Program, including an additional $175 million to support stability in the submarine industrial base;

•  $63.9 million for Navy applied research on undersea warfare technologies, led by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), including $7.5 million, to support Navy and academia submarine partnerships.  The University of Rhode Island has been a leader in these types of academic partnerships.

•  Nearly $2.5 billion for university research activities, including $20 million for the Defense Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR), which ensures Rhode Island universities may compete to perform cutting-edge basic research and partner with defense labs;

•  $20 million for workforce and training initiatives to support the production of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the continued construction of the Virginia-class submarine;

•  An additional $2 million for the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies at Naval Station, Newport to support the Institute’s expanding mission in building the legal institutional capacity of foreign military forces;

•  $50 million in supplemental Impact Aid, and $20 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.  The bill includes provisions that would authorize the active and reserve component end strengths necessary to meet national defense objections, provide a 3 percent pay raise for the troops, restore $15 million to the STARBASE program, and reject a proposal by the Defense Department to cut 172 teachers from DOD schools.

This marks the 60th consecutive year that the U.S. Senate has passed a defense policy bill.