WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-2 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 and help better safeguard the nation.  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 Department of Energy and $69 billion for overseas contingency operations.

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

“This bipartisan NDAA is a needed step toward strengthening national security and prioritizing national defense resources.  It provides our troops with a well-deserved pay raise and tools to protect the health and well-being of our forces and their families.  I commend Chairman Inhofe for his bipartisan collaboration and commitment to ensuring our troops have a budget and policies to match their extraordinary courage and sacrifice,” said Senator Reed.  “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 and continues 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.  Advancing this bill is a significant step toward achieving that objective.”

Committee approval is the first step in a months-long process to establish defense funding levels and set policies for the Defense Department and the Energy Department’s national security programs.  The bill must now be debated and voted on by the full U.S. Senate.  A separate measure will make its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.  Once both the Senate and House pass their versions of the bill, they must then be reconciled in a bicameral conference committee, and then approved by each chamber before a final version may be sent to the President to be signed into law.

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 COVD-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.

Notably, it includes language that establishes a commission and will require the Pentagon to rename bases and other assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America (CSA).  No later than three years after enactment, 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 now set to be considered by the Senate, 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;

•  Report language that highlights the lack of available demolition funding at NUWC, especially for facilities on Gould Island, and strongly urges the Navy to prioritize and execute demolition resources for NUWC and Gould Island;

•  $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 Department to cut 172 teachers from DOD schools.

This marks the 60th consecutive year that the Committee has come together on a bipartisan basis to advance a defense policy bill.