On May 14, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 22-4 to report the National Defense Authorization bill authorizing $611.9 billion in defense spending.
$495.5 billion – Pentagon base budget
$ 18.7 billion – Department of Energy base budget
$ 88.9 billion – Overseas Contingency Operations fund
$604.1 billion – Total, National Defense
$611.9 billion – Total, National Defense including other defense discretionary authorization programs outside the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee or already authorized by the Department of Defense-Military.
The bill may come up on the Senate floor the first or second week of June.
Overseas Contingency Operations Budget
Authorizes a huge $38 billion expansion in the Overseas Contingency Operations account for base budget items such as operations and maintenance. The fund would now total $96 billion, including $89 billion for the Pentagon. The account was originally established to pay for conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now functions as a catchall slush fund to evade the budget caps self-imposed by Congress.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS ISSUES
New Long-range bomber (LRS-B): Authorizes $1,2 billion, a reduction of $460 million from the request that the Air Forces says it does not need. The Air Force has had great difficulty controlling costs of past bomber programs. For instance, 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 new bomber program, excluding potential for cost-growth, is $90 billion, according to Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Retirement of existing long-range bombers: Limits the retirement of B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers to pay for a new long-range bomber (section 131).
Decision deadline for long-range standoff weapons (cruise missile): Establishes a deadline to make a Milestone A (early stage of weapons acquisition) decision on the cruise missile by no later than May 31, 2016 (section 1634).
Nuclear weapons triad: Sense of Congress endorsing the nuclear triad of nuclear weapons on land, at sea and in the air as “the highest priority mission of the Department of Defense,” that it is the policy of the United States to sustain and modernize or replace the entire triad plus “operate, sustain, and modernize or replace forward-deployed nuclear weapons and dual capable fighter-bomber aircraft” (section 1636).
Sea-Based Deterrence fund: Expands by $3.5 billion the Sea-based deterrence fund to pay for very expensive submarines that the Navy’s budget cannot afford (section 1022). To this point, the Appropriations committees have not gone along. 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.”
Dismantlement of nuclear weapons: Senate Armed Services Committee vote to limit the dismantlement of nuclear weapons failed on a 13-13 tie vote.
In favor: Senators McCain, Inhofe, Sessions, Wicker, Ayotte, Fischer, Cotton, Rounds, Ernst, Sullivan, Lee, Graham, and Cruz
Opposed: Senators Tillis, Reed, Nelson, McCaskill, Manchin, Shaheen, Gillibrand, Blumenthal, Donnelly, Hirono, Kaine, King, and Heinrich.
Conventional prompt global strike: Requires a Milestone A (early stage of weapons acquisition) decision on this weapon by September 30, 2020 (section 1663).
Response to Russian INF violations: Includes a Sense of Congress that in developing a nuclear ground-launched cruise missile, Russia has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) (section 1661). Requires a plan for counterforce, countervailing and defenses from the Defense secretary if Russia does not take measures to return to compliance with the INF Treaty.
Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR): Authorizes the requested $358.5 million for the CTR non-proliferation program (section 1302).
Non-proliferation: Authorizes $12.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Agency of the Department of Energy (section 3101). Of that, authorizes $9.0 billion for NNSA weapons activities; $1.9 billion for Defense nuclear non-proliferation (DNN). For DNN subprograms, the Senate authorized the same amounts as the President’s request: $426.8 million for Global Material Security, $311.6 million for Material Management and Minimization, $126.7 million for Nonproliferation and arms control, and $419.3 million for Research and Development.
Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility: Authorizes the request of $345 million for MOX, plus an additional $5 million to research alternatives. The committee notes the recent report estimated that the MOX plant could cost $51 billion and requires further study of downblending as an alternative.
MISSILE DEFENSE ISSUES
National missile defense warhead: Authorizes $286.7 million, an increase of $20 million, for an improved redesigned kill vehicle (RKV) for replacement of the less-than-adequate kill vehicles presently on top interceptor missiles in Alaska and California (aka Star Wars). The schedule is for a first flight test in FY 2018, a first intercept test in FY 2019, limited initial production in FY 2020 and four production RKV’s by the end of FY 2021.
East Coast Missile Defense: Finds that the currently deployed ground-based midcourse defense system is sufficient to protect the East Coast from North Korea and Iran (section 1642). It does recommend deploying by 2020 a new long range tracking and discrimination sensor capabilities. While not insisting on a new East Coast missile defense, if the Pentagon does determine it needs an additional missile defense site after completing environmental reviews on sites in New York, Maine, Ohio and Michigan by 2016, it should plan to do on an expedited basis within three years (section 1641). The Pentagon has repeatedly said that a third anti-missile battery on American territory is not a high priority. Missile Defense Agency’s director, Vice Adm. James Syring, has testified that the agency should place 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.
Missile defense of Hawaii: Requires a report on whether Hawaii is adequately protected from present and future North Korean missile threats.
Boost phase missile defense: Directs the development of an airborne boost phase defense system by Fiscal Year 2025 (section 1648). 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.
Space-based missile defense: Acknowledges that the Pentagon has in the past rejected space-based missile defense due to “certain challenges”; requires a report on the need for a space-based missile defense, the current technologies and life cycle costs for such a system.
Multiple-option kill vehicle defense: Requires a rigorous Multiple-Option Kill Vehicle flight testing program by 2020 with possible deployment post-2025 (section 1646), and authorizes $66.7 million for the program, an increase of $20 million.
Aircraft carriers: Authorizes $678.3 million for the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) of the USS George Washington (CVN-73), the same as the president’s request. But put limits on future carriers and complains about the high cost of the CVN-80 aircraft program just beginning that has an estimated cost of $13.5 billion in procurement alone (section 113).
Littoral combat ship (LCS): Limits funds for the LCS-33 and beyond to not more than 25% until the Navy meets pre-existing requirements on mission module and acquisition strategy. It also bars spending on LCS-25 and -26 until previously established reporting requirements for LCS are provided to Congress. Ultimately, the Senate version authorizes $1.4 billion for procurement – the same as the President’s request. The LCS is plagued with design and construction issues leading to great cost growth.
Virginia-class attack submarine: Authorizes $2.8 billion for advanced procurement and $3.3 billion for procurement, an increase of $800 million from the request for advanced procurement.
Arleigh-Burke class destroyers: Authorizes $3.5 billion, an increase of $400 million from the request.
F/A-18 aircraft added: Authorizes an unrequested $1.2 billion to procure 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
F-35A: Limits the availability for F-35A (Air Force) procurement to $4.3 billion until all F-35As delivered in Fiscal Year 2018 are deemed combat capable, but authorizes $5.2 billion in procurement for 44 F-35As ($99 million less than the request). Also authorizes $873.0 million in procurement for four F-35C (carrier variant) aircrafts, and $2.5 billion in procurement for 15 F-35B (Navy) aircraft, an increase of six aircraft and $1.1 billion from the request.
A-10 Warthog: Prohibits funds for retiring the A-10 during FY16, and requires the Air Force to maintain, at minimum, 171 A-10s in combat status (section 134).
OVERSEAS CONFLICTS AND TERRORISM
Ukraine: Authorizes an unrequested $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to provide aid, including lethal military assistance, to Ukraine’s military and other security forces (section 1251).
U.S. troops in Afghanistan: Implicitly criticizes the President’s deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 and expresses a sense of the Senate that troops should stay there as long as needed to “retain the gains” there (section 1221).
Assistance to extremists: Ban on transferring equipment and supplies to extremists, presumably even if these forces are also tacitly allied with the U.S. in fighting the ISIL in the Middle East (section 1225).
U.S. ground forces in Europe: Asks for a Pentagon report on the need for increased U.S. ground forces in Europe (Section 1253).
Counterterrorism fund: Authorizes $1.0 billion for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, $1.1 billion less than the President’s request because the budget justification detail is not sufficient.
Jordan: Authorizes $125.0 million/year in reimbursement for Lebanon and Jordan for operations against ISIL.
Syrian rebels: Authorizes $600.0 million for the Syria Train & Equip Fund.
Iraq: Prohibits funds intended for the Iraq Train and Equip fund from the FY 2015 NDAA to be implemented until “the Secretary of Defense certifies that appropriate steps have been taken by the Government of Iraq to safeguard against transferring to or acquisition by violent extremist organizations of such equipment or supplies.” It also authorizes $80.0 million for the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
Iran: Designates any organization a violent extremist organization if it “is known to be under the command and control of, or is associated with, the Government of Iran.” The bill also modifies and extends the annual report on the military power of Iran.
Active duty end strengths
Marine Corps 184,000
Air Force 317,000
Guard and reserve 811,000
Pay increase: Authorizes 1.3% salary increase for military personnel (section 601).
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC): Prohibits any funding for a new round of base closures (section 2702).
Space: Requires an interagency process to develop a policy to deter adversaries in space (section 1601) and requires the Secretary of Defense to designate a Principal Space Control Advisor (section 1602).
Pentagon sponsorship, advertising and marketing: Requires a General Accountability report on the effectiveness of Pentagon marketing and sponsorship activities, expressing skepticism that $507.5 million requested for advertising is affordable (section 342).
Privatizing commissaries: Requires a plan to privatize the 240 military commissaries (section 652), with a General Accountability Office study of the commissaries.
Pentagon audits: Permits independent auditors to aid the Pentagon attempts to prepare annual audits (section 1002).
Guantanamo Bay prison: Prohibits spending money in the U.S. to prepare facilities to house Guantanamo Bay prisoners (section 1031) and limits the release or transfer of prisoners in the U.S. (section 1032).