5/24/2018 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-2 to approve the John S. McCain III National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019.  The NDAA authorizes funding to equip, supply, and train our troops and provide for military families.  The FY19 NDAA supports a total of $716 billion for national defense programs, including a base budget of $639 billion for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy and nearly $69 billion for overseas contingency operations. 

This marks the 57th consecutive year that the Committee has come together on a bipartisan basis to advance a defense policy bill.

The NDAA includes a number of key provisions that were championed by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Committee, to enhance national security, support our servicemembers, and strengthen our nation’s maritime capacity and capabilities.  The bill authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops and makes major reforms in several critical areas including acquisition, military health care, and the military’s personnel system. 

In an effort to cut waste and reduce unnecessary defense expenditures not in line with the National Defense Strategy, the bill authorizes the Pentagon to terminate redundant or inefficient programs.

It also strictly prohibits the Pentagon from procuring or obtaining, as well as entering into, extending, or renewing a contract with an entity that uses, telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation, which are Chinese telecommunications companies that pose a significant cyber security risk to the U.S.

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. 

“This bipartisan NDAA strengthens our military, modernizes equipment, wisely prioritizes resources, and provides our troops with a well-deserved pay raise.  Although Chairman McCain wasn’t physically here for markup, his stamp is firmly on this bill, and it is named in his honor.  I salute him and Senator Inhofe for their leadership and bipartisan collaboration to ensure 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 and modernization and includes several needed reforms.  The NDAA also includes 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 to conduct operations and help our allies combat threats around the globe.  Advancing this bill is a significant step toward achieving that objective.”

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:

  • $7.4 billion for the Virginia-class submarine program, including an additional $250 million for either economic order quantity procurement or for initiatives to expand the submarine industrial supply base.  The bill supports the ten boat, multi-year contract that the Navy and Electric Boat signed in April 2014;
  • $3 billion to fully support the Columbia-class (Ohio-class Replacement) Program;
  • $78 million, which is $20 million more than the budget request, to accelerate undersea warfare applied research;
  • $40 million in supplemental Impact Aid, and $10 million in Impact Aid for schools with military dependent children with severe disabilities.  The bill does not include proposals to divert Impact Aid funding to establish a school voucher program for military dependent children.
  • Expresses the committee’s support for the critical role that the Defense Institute for International Legal Studies (DIILS) at Naval Station Newport plays in building the defense legal capacity of partner nations to promote accountability, fight corruption, and comply with human rights and the law of armed conflict.  The bill directs a review of DIILS’ facility requirements to ensure that the Institute is able to fulfill its expanding mission.
  • Makes permanent the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program at DOD.   

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; expands respite care under the TRICARE extended care program to align with Medicaid; eliminates copays for contraception under TRICARE; and requires a comprehensive three-year pilot program to minimize opioid exposure of military personnel and their families.

Now that it has been voted out of committee, the NDAA must be considered and voted on by the full U.S. Senate, which is expected to begin debate on the bill in the coming weeks.

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 then be reconciled and approved before a final version may be sent to the President to be signed into law.