Senate panel advances $716B defense policy bill

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday released details of its version of a $716 billion annual defense policy bill, which was sent to the Senate floor in a closed-door 25-2 vote.

The bill is meant to advance the goals of the administration’s National Defense Strategy, according to a bipartisan summary of the bill.

“The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 will help the United States change course,” the summary said. “It will recalibrate and refocus our efforts on readiness restoration, capabilities modernization, and concept development—all aimed at reasserting a quantitative and qualitative military advantage over potential adversaries.”


The committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would authorize about $617.6 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and $21.6 billion for defense-related programs of the Energy Department.

It would also authorize about $68.5 billion for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account.

Another $8.2 billion in defense-related spending outside the jurisdiction of the NDAA brings the topline to $715.9 billion.

The money would go toward a slew of new equipment, including $7.6 billion for 75 F-35 fighter jets. That’s two fewer than the Trump administration requested, a decision made “to realign the program towards sustainment,” according to the summary.

It would also authorize $23.1 billion, or $1.2 billion more than requested, to fund 10 new ships, including three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines and one littoral combat ship.

The bill would also allow a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops and add almost 7,000 active-duty troops to the military, broken down into 2,241 soldiers, 4,000 sailors, 100 Marines and 620 airmen.

The NDAA also has several provisions to “deter further Chinese and Russian aggression” in line with the National Defense Strategy, according to the summary.

On China, provisions include a requirement for a report on China’s military activities in the South China Sea and a ban on contracting with companies that use equipment or services from Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation.

On Russia, the bill would require assessment on the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing a U.S. Army brigade combat team in Poland and authorize the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to respond to Russia in cyberspace, among other provisions.

The bill also targets Turkey by including a provision that says the Senate believes Ankara should be sanctioned if it goes through with buying a Russian air defense system.

The bill also supports the administration’s request for $65 million to develop a so-called low yield nuclear warhead.

The NDAA also appears to reflect a growing bipartisan concern about the legal authorities used for various U.S. military operations. The bill would require the under secretary of Defense for policy “to conduct a review of the legal and policy frameworks associated with advise, assist and accompany missions by U.S. military personnel outside of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.”

It would also limit the use of $300 million to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition until the president submits the Syria strategy required by last year’s NDAA.

The committee named this year’s bill after absent Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been home in Arizona battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“I am also deeply humbled that my colleagues saw fit to do me the undeserved honor of designating this year’s NDAA in my name,” McCain said in a statement Thursday. “In the committee’s work, I have found high purpose in the service of a cause greater than self—the cause of the women and men in uniform who defend America and all she stands for. That is why it has been one of the greatest honors of my tenure in the U.S. Senate to serve as its chairman.”

“My term as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has been far from perfect,” he added. “But I am proud that over the last four years, members of the committee have upheld the Senate’s finest traditions, embraced regular order, worked within our peculiar rules and customs, and accepted the necessity of compromise.” 

Tags John McCain military pay Military personnel National Defense Authorization Act Turkey ZTE
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