Summary of Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act As Reported by House Armed Services

Timing

The full House is expected to consider the bill the week of May 11

Committee action

The House Armed Services Committee approved the bill the morning of April 30 after a marathon 18-hour mark up and consideration of some 300 amendments. The committee approved the bill 60-2.

OVERALL TOTALS

$495.9 billion – Pentagon base budget

$  19.0 billion – Department of Energy base budget

$  89.2 billion – Overseas Contingency Operations fund

$    7.6 billion – Defense mandatory spending

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$611.8 billion GRAND TOTAL

OVERSEAS CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS BUDGET: Authorizes a huge $38 billion expansion of the Overseas Contingency Operations account for base budget items such as operations and maintenance. The fund would now total $96 billion, including $89.2 billion for the Pentagon. The account was originally established to pay for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now functions as a catch-all slush fund to evade the budget caps self-imposed by Congress. To ensure that the Office and Management and Budget would not block budget tricks, the committee forces spending “without restriction, limitation, or constraint on the execution of such funds in support of base requirements.”

NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND MISSILE DEFENSE ISSUES
Special submarine fund: Expands the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, a special account to pay for the Navy’s new ballistic missile submarines that it cannot afford. Permits the Pentagon to tap unobligated funds from across the Defense Department and authorizes transferring $1.4 billion from research and development accounts. The fund was first established last year, but the appropriators have not yet added any money to carry out the concept. According to a 2015 Congressional Research Services report, the new ballistic missile submarine program is expected to cost $139 billion. Undersecretary of Acquisitions Frank Kendall has expressed concern that this special fund is ineffective in making the program more affordable, as the Pentagon still needs to pay for the new system and “changing the accounting system doesn’t really change that fundamental requirement.”
New long-range bomber: Cuts $460 million from the request for a new long-range strategic bomber because of delays in awarding contracts and directs the comptroller general to review the service’s acquisition strategy for the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program. The Air Force has had great difficulty controlling costs of past bomber programs. The Air Force planned to build 132 B-2 nuclear bombers and ended up with only 21 because costs were spiraling out of control. An estimate for the total cost of the bomber program, excluding potential for cost-growth, is $90 billion, according to Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. A Speier (D-Calif.) amendment in committee directs GAO to brief on program status and risks adopted by voice vote. 

Response to Russian INF violations: Requires the Pentagon to begin work on “counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic missile and cruise-missile attacks” that can be deployed in two years as a response to Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. But the committee does not authorize flight testing of any new system, which would be a violation of the INF Treaty.

East Coast Missile Defense:  Provides $30 million for planning an East Coast missile defense site that is estimated to cost $3 billion or more. The Pentagon, which is in the process of conducting environmental impact studies of four potential sites in New York, Maine, Ohio and Michigan, has repeatedly said it doesn’t need and cannot afford a third anti-missile battery on American territory. Missile Defense Agency’s director, Vice Adm. James Syring, has testified that the agency places a higher priority on developing better tools to identify incoming missiles and address shortcomings in the existing Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle rather than spend billions on a third site (in addition to sites in Alaska and California). “I would rather invest and develop the technologies that allow us to get on the correct side of the cost curve,” stated Adm. Bill Gortney, the head of the U.S. Northern Command.

Boost phase missile defense: Requires development of a boost phase Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. In 2012, the National Research Council of the National Academies, tasked with assessing the feasibility, practicality, and affordability of U.S. boost-phase missile defense, recommended that the United States end its pursuit.

Multiple kill vehicle missile defense: Requires launching a Multiple-Option Kill Vehicle program to expand the ground based midcourse missile defense system, with flight testing to occur no later than 2020.

Theatre missile sites in Central Europe: Requires the modification of the Aegis Ashore site in Romania, and the planned site in Poland, to provide enhanced Anti-Air Warfare capability for defense against Russian aircraft and cruise missiles.

Moving missile defense radar: Requires the relocation of the Sea-based X-band Radar from Hawaii to a site on the East Coast by 2020, with the plan to homeport the radar on the East Coast. This system has been the focus of considerable ridicule. While effective at magnifying distant objects, the X-Band Radar has a field of vision too narrow to identify incoming missile threats and distinguish between live warheads and decoys.

Space based missile defense: A Franks (R-Ariz.) amendment in committee to launch research and development, and engineering evaluation for space-based missile defense was adopted 35-27.

Non-proliferation funding: Continues a ban on Fiscal Year 2016 funding defense nuclear nonproliferation programs from being spent in Russia, although waivers are allowed if the Energy Department deems it in U.S. security interests. An amendment in committee by Sanchez (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Langevin (D-R.I.), Bordallo (D-Guam), Cooper (D-Tenn.), Johnson (D-Ga.), and Davis (D-Calif.) to give the Department of Defense flexibility to transfer funds for non-proliferation failed 26-36.

Radiological portals: Cuts funding from fixed-site radiological portals designed to intercept nuclear weapons and nuclear materials from being shipped from other countries to the U.S. A Cooper (D-Tenn.) amendment in committee to eliminate this section failed 27-35.

Verification research: Rogers (R-Ala.) amendment in committee prohibits any funding for research programs for arms control treaty verification and monitoring beyond what is required for New START unless a number of conditions are met.

National Nuclear Security Administration:  Adds $150 million to address the infrastructure problems within the NNSA. A Sanchez (D-Calif.) amendment in committee to reduce funding for NNSA weapons activities was rejected 22-40. A Garamendi (D-Calif.) amendment in committee requesting a report on life extension, modernization, development and procurement for programs relating to the nuclear enterprise was rejected by voice vote. A Sanchez (D-Calif.) amendment requiring an analysis of alternatives for life extension programs of the NNSA was adopted by voice vote in committee.

Nuclear weapons modernization: A Larsen (D- Wash.) amendment requiring a 25 year estimate of nuclear modernization costs failed by voice vote. Another Larsen amendment requiring a briefing on U.S. forward deployed nuclear weapons was adopted by voice vote.

Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX): Authorizes $345 million (the same as the President’s request). A Cooper (D-Tenn.) amendment in committee to cut that account by $125 million failed 23-40. A Garamendi (D-Calif.) amendment to cut MOX failed by voice vote.

Forward deployed nuclear weapons in Europe: A Sanchez (D-Calif.) amendment in committee to ask for a briefing on forward deployed nuclear weapons in Europe failed 27-36.

Nuclear weapons triad: A Garamendi (D-Calif.) amendment in committee to require a report on having a nuclear weapons triad (sea-based, land-based, air-based) vs. a monad or dyad failed by voice vote.

Dismantlement of nuclear weapons: A Turner (R-Ohio) and Franks (R-Ariz.) amendment offered in committee limits $50 million annually for dismantlement of nuclear weapons adopted by voice vote.

CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS

Retiring cruisers: Blocks the Navy from retiring Ticonderoga-class cruisers and requires the modernization of two of the cruisers to begin next year. Last year, the Navy tried to take half the cruisers out of service for modernization, but Congress refused the request. A Courtney (D-Conn.) amendment to eliminate cruiser modernization funds failed in committee 24-38.

Refueling carriers: Supports the nuclear refueling overhaul of the aircraft carrier George Washington, construction of the carriers John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and Enterprise (CVN 80), and provides batch or incremental funding authority for CVN 81 and five more carrier refueling overhauls.

Littoral combat ships (LCS): Provides the full Navy request of $1.4 billion for littoral combat ships. The LCS is plagued with design and construction issues, and cost growth. In 2014, the program was restructured and the Navy plans to build the final 20 of 52 ships with a revised structure. The Navy plans to refer to these ships as frigates, not LCSs.

Aircraft added to the budget: Authorizes $1.2 billion for 12 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and $1 billion for six more F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets than the Pentagon requested.

F-35: Requires an independent review of the F135 engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A Speier (D-Calif.) amendment in committee to cut $588.5 million in funding for F-35As and add $588.5 million to National Guard and Reserve Equipment account was rejected in committee by voice vote.

A-10 Warthog: Adds $683 million to keep the A-10 flying. A Moulton (D-Mass.) amendment to the McSally (R-Ariz.) amendment in committee to cut some A-10’s failed 26-37.

OVERSEAS CONFLICTS AND TERRORISM

Aid to Ukraine:  Authorizes up to $200 million to provide the Ukrainian military with lethal defensive weapons.

Guantanamo Bay prisoners: Bars movement of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S. or their transfer or release to certain foreign countries, like those that sponsor terrorism. Also continues the ban on constructing new facilities for these prisoners in the U.S.A Conaway (R-Texas) amendment in committee to bar closing the prison approved by voice vote. A Smith (D-Wash.) in committee to strike these provisions failed by voice vote.

Counterterrorism Fund: Blocks $2.1 billion requested for a counterterrorism partnership fund.

Jordan: Authorizes $600 million to help Jordon’s border security and military capacity.

Syrian rebels: Authorizes $600 million to train and equip Syrian opposition forces.

Iraq: Authorizes $715 million to train and equip Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State. A Franks (R-Ariz.) amendment in committee to require no less than 12.5% of FY16 aid go to the Kurds was adopted by voice vote.

Iran: Includes nine non-binding, sense of Congress points denouncing Iran and questioning the international negotiations. While the language is not helpful to diplomacy, it does not block negotiations or prevent potential sanctions relief.

MISCELLANEOUS

Pentagon Acquisitions: Includes language to use recent prices paid as a benchmark for price reasonableness. This proposal will limit the government’s ability to compare pricing to commercial rates, and will not allow the government to get the best deal possible for goods or services. Just because the government has paid a certain amount for a certain good or service in the past does not mean it was, or will be, a reasonable price.

Navy and Marine Corps: Changes the name of the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.

BRAC: Bars a new round of base closings (BRAC). Rep. Smith (D-Wash.) withdrew an amendment in committee to overturn this provision, but promised to offer the amendment on the House floor.

Biofuels: Conaway (R-Texas.) amendment in committee to restrict work on biofuels adopted 32-31 in committee. Another Conaway amendment in committee exempting the Department of Defense from alternative fuel procurement requirements was adopted by voice vote.