Last week, the House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA), which authorizes spending for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs, and foreign military operations by a vote of 60 to 1. This bill is the fourth yearly authorization reported by the Committee during Chairman Thornberry’s tenure as Chairman. The bill will be scheduled for debate on the House floor.
“The military has been neglected for too long. We have started to rebuild, but there is still more work to be done,” Thornberry said. “This year, we are continuing to reform the Pentagon to help speed up decision-making and get equipment to our warfighters faster. Our troops are our most valuable asset, and it is important to make sure they have the tools and support they need to be successful.”
The NDAA authorizes $717 billion in spending for defense needs, including significant increases for readiness recovery, and it fully funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for our troops, the highest increase in 9 years. It also extends special pay and bonuses for servicemembers in high-demand fields to combat the high turnover of these jobs.
Chairman Thornberry is also working to make significant bureaucratic reforms. The newly-created Chief Management Officer (CMO) will be charged with finding efficiencies and reducing 25 percent of the cost of certain Department-wide activities, enhancing accountability.
Below are highlights from this passing.
- Sheppard Air Force Base: The NDAA authorizes funding for an increase in end strength of the Air Force and increases funding for flying hours by $24.2 million which will allow for more time in the air for our pilots. It includes an additional $10.0 million to help accelerate technology development required to mitigate physiological episodes and $2.8 billion for the procurement of spare airplane parts for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. It also includes language to address the ongoing pilot shortage, which is hampering readiness in every service. In an effort to address the persistent pilot shortage, the bill requires the Air Force to evaluate all pilot staff requirements to maximize pilots’ time in the cockpit.
- Pantex: The bill provides $11.2 billion in funding for nuclear weapons activities, including the work done at Pantex, which is $198 million more than the Administration’s budget request. All life extension programs, including the W76-1 program currently underway at Pantex and the lower-yield W76-2 warhead program that will soon be initiated, are fully funded. The bill includes $24 million to continue design activities for the Pantex Material Staging Facility, which will dramatically improve operations and security at the plant. To help with aging infrastructure and security needs at Pantex and other facilities across the enterprise, the bill provides an additional $150 million above the budget request and requires the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to report to Congress on how it is implementing the Infrastructure Modernization Initiative that Congress mandated last year. The bill also includes a provision and funding to accelerate two key nuclear modernization programs and their associated warhead programs: the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and the Long-Range Standoff cruise missile. Finally, the bill includes a provision to strengthen oversight of the backlog of security clearance investigations at the NNSA that are delaying and impeding the hiring of highly-skilled workers at Pantex and across the enterprise.
- Bell: Close to $2.3 billion is authorized for Bell’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of 7 new Ospreys and 25 new H-1 helicopters. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo.
- Authorizes $18.5 billion to begin to rehabilitate and replace worn our Army equipment, $39.4 billion to begin to address the military aviation crisis, $36 billion to restore our at sea strength, and $23.3 billion to rebuild military buildings and infrastructure;
- Funds the growth or our Army, Navy, Air Force, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard;
- Increases funding for training in each service;
- Provides $21.8 billion for equipment maintenance and $3.7 billion for spare parts;
- Adds funding to improve America’s missile defense; and
- Places emphasis on policy and programs to advance America’s security against emerging threats – Artificial intelligence, space and counter-space capabilities, cyber, influence operations, hypersonics, among others.