WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House-Senate conference committee reached bicameral agreement on the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019.

The reconciled FY 2019 NDAA defense policy bill authorizes $639 billion for the Department of Defense and for national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy and $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.  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 John McCain (R-AZ), U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a senior member of SASC who is filling in for Senator McCain, who is currently at home in Arizona receiving treatment for brain cancer, and U.S. Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), 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, improve military training and readiness, and reform the defense acquisition process.  The bill authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops and reflects a policy shift towards prioritizing the strategic competition with Russia and China.

It also includes language Reed authored to reaffirm the ironclad U.S. commitment under Article 5 to the collective defense of the NATO Alliance.  Earlier this month, the Senate voted 97-2 in favor of Senator Reed’s motion to instruct conferees to reaffirm in the final conference report on the NDAA the U.S. commitment to NATO as a community of shared values, including liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. 

“This bipartisan agreement sets national security priorities, modernizes our Armed Forces, and authorizes needed investments to replace warn out equipment and bolster our national defense.  I commend Chairman McCain, whose name and stamp are firmly on this bill, and I also want to recognize the leadership and contributions of Senator Inhofe, Chairman Thornberry, Ranking Member Smith, and thank all my colleagues who worked together to strengthen our national defense and support our troops,” said Senator Reed.  “This bill is the result of compromise where not everyone got everything they wanted, but we still managed to balance critical national security needs and budgetary realities in a way that enables us to meet evolving national security challenges now and in the future.”   

The Senate-passed NDAA contained a provision removing restrictions on the U.S. development or deployment of new nuclear weapons without Congressional authorization and provided the U.S. Secretary of Energy with new authority to carry out the weapon’s energy development phase, or any subsequent phase, without Congress’ specific approval. 

Senator Reed offered a successful amendment in the conference committee to replace this language and ensure Congress maintains a central role in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons.

“Given the destructive powers of nuclear weapons, it is imperative that every member of Congress be accountable when it comes to the development and deployment of our country’s nuclear arsenal.  I am pleased we were able to reach bipartisan consensus to ensure that Congress is involved, every step of the way, in the development of any new or modified nuclear weapon,” said Senator Reed.

Reed also led efforts to include language in the bill to strengthen cyber operations, naval readiness, and submarine production, which is a vital part of Rhode Island’s defense industry.  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.

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:

  • $7.6 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, which supports the ten boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in April 2014;
  • $3.2 billion to fully support the Ohio-class Replacement Program, including an additional $250 million to support submarine industrial base expansion;
  • $270.9 million for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program;
  • $78 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied research; and
  • $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.  The bill includes a number of provisions to address employment challenges faced by military spouses and requires a comprehensive three-year pilot program to minimize opioid exposure of military personnel and their families.

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.