WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, which authorizes $692.2 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) and for national security programs of the U.S. Department of Energy.  The bill, which now heads to the President’s desk, provides the authorities and resources the military needs to complete their missions, restore readiness, prepare for the future, and take care of our military families.  It would provide a 2.4 percent pay raise for all servicemembers and increase total active duty and reserve end strength by about 20,000 personnel.  The bill also helps build and modernize submarines, ships, aircraft and other vital military equipment and strengthens our missile defense systems.

“The NDAA sets national security priorities and authorizes needed investments to bolster our national defense.  This bipartisan bill will enhance military readiness and help us meet evolving national security challenges today and in the future,” stated U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

During a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate [watch VIDEO here], Reed singled out SASC Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) for his steadfast leadership and service to the nation: “Let me take a moment to begin by thanking my friend and colleague, Senator McCain, who has been an invaluable partner in this process and an unwavering ally of our service men and women.  As a member of the Armed Services Committee for three decades, Senator McCain has spent his entire career in the Senate working tirelessly on behalf of our military personnel and providing for our country’s national security.  Since assuming the chairmanship in 2015, Senator McCain has led the committee with a firm hand through countless hearings, briefings, and meetings to ensure that we are constantly working to improve the lives of those that serve our country.   This conference report is another example of the Chairman’s continued dedication to bipartisan deliberation, and I am grateful for his partnership.”

Senator Reed 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.

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

$5.9 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, which is $698 million more than the budget request, in order to provide additional economic order quantity funding and advance procurement for the next block of ships.  The bill supports the ten boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in April 2014;

  • $1.6 billion to fully support the Ohio-class Replacement Program;
  • $264.4 million for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program;
  • $81 million to accelerate undersea warfare applied research;
  • $10 million for the procurement of an additional surveillance towed array sensor system that detects stealth submarines, a priority for the Navy; and
  • $40 million in supplemental Impact Aid and $10 million in Impact Aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.

Reed successfully worked on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize the Defense Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) program to expand the number of universities capable of working with the Pentagon on advanced research and enhance our nation’s ability to respond to the ever-changing threats our Armed Forces face.  This program will broaden participation in developing defense research capabilities in states like Rhode Island that have been historically underserved by federal research and development (R&D) funding.

In recognition of the important work of the Defense Institute of the International Legal Studies in Newport, Rhode Island, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to review the Institute’s mission, workforce, funding, and support to determine whether they are appropriately aligned to enable the Institute to carry out its activities to strengthen the rule of law in partner nations’ militaries and build defense legal institutions. 

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 authorizes $141.8 billion for military personnel and $33.7 billion for the Defense Health Program; permanently extends the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance while authorizing cost-of-living increases going forward; and enhances military family readiness by addressing the shortage of qualified-child care workers and by increasing flexibility for military families undergoing permanent changes of station.

The NDAA authorizes the expenditure of public funds and then the Appropriations Committee must determine the final level of defense spending.  Senator Reed is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittees on Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 356-70 to approve the bill earlier this week.  Now that it has passed the full U.S. Senate by voice vote, it goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

While the 2018 NDAA authorizes $626.4 billion in base defense spending for DOD and national security programs of the Department of Energy, under the spending caps and the “sequestration” mechanism set in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, only $549 billion in national defense expenditures is permitted.  This means Congress must find a way to address sequestration.

Senator Reed noted: “We must address the caps – for both defense and non-defense activities.  I remind my colleagues that under the BCA, national defense activities include certain programs at the FBI and the Coast Guard, while non-defense activities include the State Department, veterans’ care, Customs and Border Protection, and the TSA.  We need to look at our nation’s needs holistically and we must remain vigilant over the amount of money DOD can effectively utilize.”