Summary of Major Issues in Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act As Reported by House Armed Services Committee
Nuclear weapons issues
Afghanistan, Iran, Guantanamo Bay, Sexual Assault and other issues
Pentagon proposals rejected
The House Armed Services Committee approved the bill 61-0 early the morning of May 8 after a marathon session. The bill is expected on the House floor the week of May 19, with the House Rules Committee to determine which amendments the GOP will permit to be offered and which they don’t want to allow. The Senate Armed Services has scheduled its writing of the bill to begin on May 20.
Consistent with the Murray (D-WA)-Ryan (R-WI) budget agreement, the bill authorizes $521.3 billion in spending for national defense and an additional $79.4 billion as a placeholder for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), for a total of $600.7 billion. That total includes $17.9 billion for nuclear weapons and environmental cleanup activities at the Department of Energy.
Nuclear weapons issues
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation:
• Global Threat Reduction Initiative: Adds $80 million to the Administration’s request for this crucial non-proliferation program for a total of $413.5 million after the Obama Administration had cut the program. The program supports converting reactors that use highly enriched uranium to burn low enriched uranium unsuitable for nuclear weapons, the removal and disposition of excess nuclear and radiological materials and the protection of high-priority nuclear materials from theft.
• Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation Research and Development: Adds $70 million for research and development to the Administration’s request for a total of $430.8 million after the Obama Administration had cut the program. Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation R&D programs improve technical capabilities to detect and verify foreign fuel-cycle activities.
• International Materials Protection and Cooperation: Cuts $176 million from the program. The program reduces the risk of nuclear terrorism by working with Russia and other partner countries to increase the security of vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear materials and to improve their ability to deter, detect and interdict illicit trafficking. The bill eliminates all funding in the request for nuclear security cooperation activities in Russia.
• Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) facility: Adds $120 million for the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility at the Savannah River Site, Aiken, South Carolina, for a total of $406.1 million. Requires the Administration to continue construction of the project. The program, originally estimated to cost $3.8 billion, now has an estimated cost of $31 billion. (Section 3118). Peters (D-CA) full committee amendment #266 to increase funding by $120 million for 8 MQ-9 reaper drones by eliminating the $120 million added by the committee for Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) construction approved 32-29.
• Overall, the bill increases funding for the Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation account by $130 million (or 8.4%) above the budget request.:
National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) weapons activities:
• weapons activities: funded at $8.46 billion, an increase of $143.7 million (or 1.7%) over the budget request.
• B61 life extension program: funded at the request level of $643 million. The current estimate to refurbish these weapons is $12 billion. One version of the B61 is slated to replace approximately 200 tactical nuclear weapons currently stored in five European countries and another higher-yield version of the weapons would be delivered by the B-2.
• Cruise missile warhead life extension program: increases funding by $7.6 million. It also includes a provision (Section 3117) requiring the production of the first refurbished warhead no later than September 30, 2025, two years faster than NNSA plans to refurbish the warhead (the budget request proposes a three year delay in the program). The cost of the life extension program is estimated to be $6 – $7 billion.
• W76 life extension program: increases funding by $14.6 million. The bill does not reverse the proposed five-year delay in the budget request to the joint W78/88-1 life extension program.
• Weapons dismantlement activities: funded at $30 million, the Administration request, which is a 40% cut from the Fiscal Year 2014. This cut risks delays in destroying retired nuclear weapons. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) full committee amendment #232 to move $20 million into the dismantlement of nuclear weapons rejected 24-34.
Ballistic Missile Defense: Adds $40 million above the budget request for the ground based midcourse defense program and $20 million in military construction for preliminary work on an East Coast missile defense site. The Administration has announced the deployment of 14 additional interceptors in Alaska in addition to the current 30 despite major questions about the effectiveness of the interceptor. The Pentagon is conducting a two-year study of potential locations for such an East Coast defense.
Missile defense in Poland: Turner (D-OH) full committee amendment #082r1 to require the Secretary of Defense to deploy a missile defense system in Poland. The provision requires that the Secretary of Defense ensure the operational availability of the Aegis Ashore system site in Poland no later than December 31, 2016, two years earlier than currently scheduled. Amendment approved en bloc via voice vote.
Missile defense flight test: Johnson (D-GA) Sense of Congress full committee amendment #192r1 expressing that the Pentagon should not procure an additional missile defense capability enhancement II exoatmospheric kill vehicle until after a successful intercept flight test approved en bloc via voice vote.
Israeli missile defense cooperative programs: $268.8 million, an increase of $172 million.
Ohio class ballistic missile submarine replacement program: Funds the program at the request level of $1.29 billion. Also establishes a Defense Department-wide National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to push funding for the costly new strategic nuclear submarine (SSBNX) out of the Navy budget into a Pentagon-wide budget so the submarine does not compete with other Navy programs. The fund would not begin until after Fiscal Year 2017. The current estimate for development and procurement of this program is $100 billion (Section 1022).
Other Pentagon nuclear weapons modernization programs: The bill funds the Long-Range Strike Bomber program at the request level of $914 million, the Long Range Standoff weapon program to replace the existing nuclear-armed air launched cruise missile at the request level of $4.9 million, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrence program to replace the Minuteman III ICBM at the request level of $9.4 million, the new guided tailkit for the B61 mod 12 life extension program at the request level of $198.4 million and a nuclear capability for the F-35A at the request level of $15.6 million.
New cruise missile: Garamendi’s (D-CA) full committee amendment #116 to force the Pentagon to justify a new cruise missile project and to explain why such a weapon is needed, including any potential redundancies with existing weapons adopted by voice vote.
Russia-U.S. cooperation: Prohibits bilateral military-to-military contact or cooperation between the United States and the Russian unless conditions are met such as Russian withdrawal from Crimea. (Section 1221) Prohibits Department of Energy nuclear security and nonproliferation cooperation with Russia. Both provisions include waiver authority that would allow continued cooperation with Russia if it is deemed to be in U.S. national security interests.
Russian arms control compliance: Sense of Congress regarding the material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by Russia. Would require the President to report on efforts to have Russia return to being in compliance with the treaty, and the President’s assessment as to whether it remains in the national security interest of the United States to remain a party to the treaty. (Section 1225)
Limiting programs with Russia: Bridenstine (R-OK) full committee amendment #046r1 to limit funds for DOD Cooperative Threat Reduction activities with Russia until the Secretary of Defense meets specific certification requirements, with a waiver, approved en bloc via voice vote.
Sharing missile defense information with Russia: Continues a limitation on sharing missile defense information with Russia. (Sections 1223 and 1224)
Retention of ICBM missile silos: Sense of Congress endorsing retaining a maximum number of strategic intercontinental ballistic missile silos. Requirement that any ICBM silo that contains a deployed ICBM as of the date of the enactment of the bill must be retained in “warm status” if the missile is retired so that a missile could be returned to the silo and made operational. (Section 1634) Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) full committee amendment #72 to terminate the retention requirement of ICBM silos by 2021 adopted en bloc via voice vote.
Nuclear bomb plutonium pit production: Sense of Congress that the United States should build a capacity to produce 50 – 80 plutonium pits along with a requirement that the U.S. be able to produce 30 plutonium pits by 2023, 50 plutonium pits by 2026 and 80 by 2028. Pits are the fissile core of the first stage of a modern nuclear weapon. (Section 3114)
Transfer authority: Permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer up to $150 million to the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons activities or naval reactors. (Section 1003)
Cooperative Threat Reduction Program: $365.1 million, the same as the budget request.
Plutonium strategy: Johnson (D-GA) full committee amendment 251r1 requiring NNSA to submit a report on using or modifying existing facilities across the nuclear security enterprise to support NNSA’s plutonium strategy instead of building new facilities approved en bloc via voice vote.
Aircraft carrier refueling: Added $796.2 million to refuel an aircraft carrier. Also holds hostage half of Secretary of Defense’s office funding for next year until the Defense Department commits to maintaining an aircraft carrier fleet of 11 ships.
EA-18G growler electronic warfare aircraft: Adds $450 million for five new aircraft.
Littoral Combat Ship: Cuts $350 million for one ship. Duckworth (D-IL) full committee amendment #241 to limit the availability of funds for procurement of additional Littoral Combat Ships rejected by voice vote.
KC-46 tanker planes: Saves $226 million by cutting one aircraft from the planned purchase of seven.
Open skies: Limits Russian flights over the United States under the Open Skies Treaty. (Section 1222)
Poland: Sense of Congress endorsing modernization of Poland’s defense capacity.
Afghanistan, Iran, Guantanamo Bay, Sexual Assault and other issues
Combating sexual assault in the military: Eliminates the “good soldier defense,” which considers general military character toward the probability of innocence in sexual assault prosecutions. (Section 535)
Military sexual assault: Speier (D-CA) #264 full committee amendment modifying the uniform code of military justice to remove the chain of command from decisions to prosecute cases all major non-military specific crimes rejected 13-49.
Military sexual assault: Speier (D-CA) #125r2 full committee amendment amending the uniform code of military justice to remove the chain of command from decisions to prosecute cases of sexual assault rejected 28-34.
Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Expresses concern that this fund is being used to fund requirements beyond the Afghanistan mission, compounding pressures on vital programs. The bill mandates a report on the uses of this fund and a three-year plan to end this fund and move the programs into the base budget. Thus far, the Administration has put forward a placeholder number of $79.4 billion in the account pending Afghanistan elections and a new security agreement. (Section 332)
Marine Corps: Changes the Department of Navy to the Department of Navy and Marine Corps. (Section 901)
Guantanamo Bay prison: Bars spending on any prison facilities in the U.S. to which prisoners from Guantanamo Bay could be transferred and restricts the ability to move prisoners to other countries. (Section 1032) Also prohibits transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. (Section 1033) Smith (D-WA) full committee amendment #088 to delete these provisions failed 23-38.
Afghanistan: Endorses residual presence in Afghanistan” and backs “financial, advisory, and other necessary support to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), at the authorized end-strength of 352,000 personnel, through 2018.” (Section 1217)
Iran: Expresses the sense of Congress on the U.S. forward presence and cooperation in the region of the Arabian Gulf in order to deter the Islamic Republic of Iran. The provision also states that any comprehensive agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear program should address the possible military dimensions of such program. Finally, the sense of Congress would state that the United States should continue to put pressure on Iran’s network of organizations that conduct malign activities. (Section 1239) Lamborn (R-CO) full committee amendment #109r1requiring that any agreement with Iran end Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles, stop support of terrorism and cease the enrichment of uranium adopted by voice vote.
Biofuels: Three Conaway (R-TX) full committee amendments to limit Pentagon programs to develop and use biofuels adopted by voice vote.
Commissary sales: Hunter (R-CA) full committee amendment #@201r1to bar restricting sales in military commissaries of any legal consumer products such as tobacco or alcohol adopted 53-9.
Pentagon proposals rejected
New round of base closings
Reductions proposed for housing, commissary and other benefits, including the military healthcare system, and rejects a 1% hike in soldiers’ pay in favor of 1.8%.
Retirement of U- 2 spy planes (Section 132).
A-10: The bill out of subcommittee permitted the Air Force to take its A-10 fleet out of service, but required service officials to maintain the aircraft so that the aircraft could be recalled into service. (Section 133) Barber (D-AZ) full committee amendment 239r2 retaining the A-10 Warthog by taking $635 million out of the Overseas Contingency Operations slush fund adopted 41-20.
Army National Guard: Wilson (R-SC) full committee amendment #018 to prohibit the reduction of active duty Army personnel below 490,000 or Army National Guard below 350,000 and block the transfer AH-64 attack helicopters from the Army National Guard to the regular Army adopted by voice vote.
Ticonderoga Class Cruiser: Forbes (R-VA) full committee amendment #135r1 to block the retirement or inactivation of a cruiser or dock landing ship adopted by voice vote.
AWACS: Bridenstine (R-OK) full committee amendment to prevent the Air Force from retiring half of the eight E-3 early warning aircraft it wants to retire until Pentagon officials explain how they would meet their requirements with only 24 aircraft instead of the 31 now in the fleet adopted by voice vote.