What’s inside Congress’s $585B defense bill?

The House and Senate Armed Services committees released late Tuesday evening the text of their proposed 2015 Defense authorization bill, which was the result of months of negotiations between both panels. 

“A new bill will be filed today, and the House of Representatives plans to pass it without change and send it to the Senate by the end of this week,” according to a statement by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday. 

{mosads}He added that no amendments to the bill would be allowed. 

“At this point, there is no way that we can resolve disputes about which amendments should be debated, debate them, overcome potential filibusters, and still get the job done,” he said. “We ask our colleagues to support us in bringing up and passing this bill without amendment as the best of a bad set of options.”

The bill, which authorizes the activities of the Defense Department, has hundreds of provisions that include troop pay and benefits, authority to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, and funding for weapons programs. 

The bill authorizes $521.3 billion in the base discretionary spending for national defense, and $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). 

Some of the key provisions include: 

Military pay and benefits: 

  • $3 increase in select pharmacy co-pays (no increase in mail-order generic pharmaceuticals).
  • 2015 military pay increase at 1 percent, with a pay freeze for General and Flag Officers for FY15.
  • 1 percent decrease in basic allowance for housing (BAH) for FY15.

Combatting sexual assault in the military:

  • The NDAA eliminates the “good soldier defense” — a consideration of general military character toward the probability of innocence in sexual assault prosecutions.
  • Victims would also be consulted as to their preference for prosecuting offenders by court-martial or through civilian channels.

Military readiness: 

  • Provides over $212 billion for operation and maintenance requirements funding activities such as ship refueling and overhaul, depot maintenance, and facilities sustainment.
  • Further addresses critical readiness gaps associated with depot maintenance, flying hour programs and base operations support caused by sequestration and repeated resource cuts.
  • Includes authorization for a pilot program that would increase the reutilization of excess equipment in Afghanistan by enabling the transport to key partners for use in other missions, such as those against ISIL.

Defeating ISIS and other terrorist organizations: 

  • Authorizes the $3.4 billion request for sustaining U.S. personnel forward-deployed to the Middle East.
  • Iraq: The NDAA authorizes the president’s $1.6 billion request to train and equip Iraqi security forces for a two-year program with robust oversight and notification requirements.
  • Syria: The NDAA extends the McKeon amendment to the CR to train and equip moderate Syrian forces to combat ISIS.
  • Counter Terrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF): The NDAA authorizes $1.3 billion for a 2 year program to build partner anti-terrorism capacity in the Middle East and Africa, except for Iraq (which is funded elsewhere in the OCO request), and to allow U.S. forces to providing enabling support to foreign partners undertaking counterterrorism activities.


  • Establishes a report on post-2014 Afghanistan.
  • Extends the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Afghanistan.
  • Requires a plan for monitoring DOD funded construction activities in Afghanistan post-2014.
  • Requires a report on the financial management capacity of the Afghan ministries of Defense and Interior.
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to submit an ANSF sustainment plan through the end of FY18.

Reforming the Department of Defense: 

  • Restores the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) to its independent status, with the Office reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense and increases the ONA budget for FY15 by $10 million to $18.9 million.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to report on the feasibility of reducing or consolidating combatant command functions by FY20 and a plan to implement a periodic review and analysis of management headquarters.
  • Directs the undersecretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and the senior acquisition executives for the Navy and the Air Force, to issue policies to the Defense agencies and the military services implementing a standard checklist to be completed before the issuance of a solicitation for any new contract for services or exercising an option under an existing contract for servicing.

Facing current threats and preparing for new challenges: 

  • Refuels the USS George Washington, a carrier with 25 years of useful life left.
  • Authorizes incremental funding for a new San Antonio Class Amphibious Ship.
  • Authorizes limited purchase of EA-18G Growlers, AWACS aircraft, and additional MQ-9 Reapers.
  • Requires the modernization of two class cruisers, while prohibiting the “lay up” of half the cruiser fleet.
  • Prohibits the retirement of any A-10 aircraft in FY15, while allowing the secretary of Defense to place up to 36 aircraft into a back-up inventory status subject to a review by DOD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation directorate and a certification by the secretary of Defense
  • Prevent the transfer of any National Guard Apache helicopters in FY15.
  • Commissions GAO to study the appropriate balance between the active force and the Guard. 
  • Blocks National Guard end strength reductions, as well as the re-distribution of important Guard aviation assets are blocked in FY15.
  • Prohibits funds to be used for large-scale purchases of biofuels, unless they are cost competitive.

Strengthening cyber operations and information: 

  • Directs the president to maintain a list of nation-states or individuals that engage in economic or industrial espionage using cyber tools.
  • Allows the president to impose sanctions on such individuals or nation-states.

Asia rebalance: 

  • Requires a DOD study on Taiwan’s defense capabilities.
  • Requires an independent assessment on countering anti-access area denial capabilities.
  • Expresses a sense of Congress on the importance of our security relationships with Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Defeating al Qaeda: 

  • Requires a report on the national security planning guidance to continue to deny safe havens to al Qaeda, and an independent assessment of al Qaeda, its affiliates, associated groups and adherents.

Guantanamo Bay: 

  • Maintains prohibitions associated with the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, including the bi-partisan prohibitions on the transfer of detainees to the United States and on the construction of terrorist detention facilities in the United States.

Stability in the Middle East: 

  • Expresses congressional belief that the U.S. should maintain a robust forward presence and posture to support US allies and partners in the Arabian Gulf region — to include basing that enables U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; and to deter Iran.
  • Invests in vital systems like Iron Dome, including reaffirming the requirement for U.S. based co-production.
  • Provides significant resources above the President’s request for other Israeli Cooperative Missile Defense programs.


  • Requires a report on the “new normal” and general mission requirements for Africom and the Marine Security Guard program.
  • Requires a report on the readiness implications of the Army’s Regionally Aligned Brigade concept in Africa.

Europe and Russia: 

  • Prohibits U.S. military cooperation with the Russian military until the secretary of Defense certifies the Russian military is no longer illegally occupying Crimea, and is abiding by the terms of the Minsk Protocol regarding the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
  • Bars National Nuclear Security Administration from transferring military-grade technology with Russia.
  • Requires the secretary of Defense to provide a report on Congress on a strategy and plans to enhance security and stability in Europe, including reassuring NATO members of U.S. commitments to collective self-defense and enhancing U.S. security cooperation with NATO partner nations. 
  • The NDAA expresses the Sense of Congress that lethal and nonlethal assistance should be provided to Ukraine, and requires the secretary of Defense to submit a report on such assistance that has been requested by and provided to Ukraine.
  • The NDAA increases the budget for the DOD’s Warsaw Initiative Fund/Partnership for Peace (WIF/PfP) program from $24.4 million to $34.4 million.
  • Authorizes $1 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative, including $75 million for programs, activities, and assistance to support Ukraine.
  • Authorizes $220 million for the development of a U.S. next generation propulsion system by 2019, as well as includes a prohibition on the secretary of Defense for buying launch services using Russian rocket engines other than those already under contract as of February 1, 2014.

Nuclear enterprise: 

  • Retains all 450 intercontinental ballistic missile silos in at least a “warm” status that enables them to become operational at a future date.
  • The NDAA continues previous efforts to right-size the federal workforce at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and streamline bureaucracy.
  • Includes language that lowers the statutory cap on federal employees at NNSA by more than 7 percent to a total of 1,690 positions.
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