By Kingston Reif
Senate and House negotiators have agreed on a Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 3304, that was negotiated between the two Armed Services Committees.
This tactic was chosen after the Senate failed to agree to limit the number of amendments on the Senate floor before the Thanksgiving break. Some 500 amendments were submitted to the defense bill, but there were only two recorded votes, both related to Guantanamo Bay.
The Armed Services Committees have pressed for passage to continue a record of enacting a bill for 51 straight years.
The House approved the agreed-upon measure on December 12 by a vote of 350 – 69. On Sunday, December 15, Majority Leader Reid filed cloture on the bill, and votes are expected this week after the Senate completes action on the new budget agreement.
The new legislation is based on two bills: (1) H.R. 1960, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY14 which passed the House on June 14, 2013 by a vote of 315-108; and (2) S.1197, a Senate Armed Services Committee bill which passed out of committee by a vote of 23-3 but did not receive a final vote on the Senate floor. You can read our analysis of H.R. 1960 here.
The compromise includes about 79 amendments that were part of a “managers package” of relatively non-controversial matters.
The legislation authorizes s total of $625.1 billion: $552.1 billion for national defense (budget function 050) and an additional $80.7 billion is for Overseas Contingency Operations.
The $552.1 billion is broken down into $526.8 billion for the Pentagon discretionary base budget, $17.6 billion for the Department of Energy and $7.7 billion for defense mandatory spending.
The bill exceeds the new Fiscal Year budget agreement (The Murray-Ryan deal now pending in the Senate) by an estimated $32 billion, leaving it to the appropriators to produce a bill that adheres to the new ceiling.
An estimated $20 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations account are in fact base budget programs that have been placed in the “Afghanistan war funding” account to evade budget ceilings that only apply to the base budget.
The overall number is consistent with levels authorized in the Fiscal Year 2013 bill for the base budget and $7.8 billion less for war spending.
Key provisions related to nuclear weapons and missile defense issues
New START Implementation: Permits the Department in FY 2014 only to plan and prepare for implementing the force structure to meet the New START Treaty limits of 700 deployed strategic delivery systems and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery systems by February 2018. The bill would fence 50% of the funds requested for an environmental assessment for any proposed reduction in ICBM silos and prohibit the conversion of nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers to conventional bombers until the Pentagon submits to Congress the New START nuclear force structure plan required by the FY 2012 NDAA, which is almost two years late. The legislation also expresses a Sense of Congress that the force structure required by the New START Treaty should preserve Minuteman III ballistic missile silos in a warm status. The final conference language on New START is a watered down version of a provision in the House bill that would bar the reductions required by New START until the submission to Congress of the overdue New START force structure plan and the President certifies that any additional reductions below New START will only be carried out pursuant to a formal treaty approved by the Senate or an international agreement approved by an affirmative act of Congress.
Nuclear reductions beyond New START: Includes a Sense of Congress that, if the United States seeks further strategic nuclear arms reductions with Russia, such reductions should be pursued through a mutually negotiated agreement, be verifiable, take in to account tactical nuclear weapons, and be subject to Senate advice and consent. This language defangs a provision in the House bill which states that any further reductions below the New START levels must be approved by the Senate as part of a treaty and prohibits any reductions below the New START limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery systems unless the Senate has approved a treaty that limits Russia’s arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, the President has certified that Russia is in compliance with its nuclear arms control agreements and obligations, and the US intelligence community has high confidence judgments with respect to the nuclear forces and posture of China.
Compliance with nuclear arms control obligations: Includes a Sense of Congress that, if the President determines that a foreign nation is in substantial noncompliance with its nuclear arms control treaty obligations in a manner that adversely affects the national security of the United States or its allies or alliances, the President should take certain specified steps. The final conference language rolls back a Sense of Congress provision in the House NDAA that the President should consider not seeking further nuclear arms reductions with a foreign country that is in noncompliance with its nuclear arms control treaty obligations.
Nuclear-capable aircraft in Europe: Includes a Sense of Congress regarding reductions or consolidations of dual-capable aircraft. The bill also requires a notification and report 90 days before the date on which the Secretary reduces or consolidates dual capable aircraft. The final conference language replaces a provision in the House bill that would prohibit funding to reduce or consolidate U.S. dual-capable aircraft in Europe until 90 days after the Secretary of Defense certifies to the congressional defense committees that the Russian Federation has carried out similar actions; the Secretary has consulted with the member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) about the proposed action with respect to U.S. dual-capable aircraft; and, there is a consensus among NATO member states in support of such action.
B-61 nuclear bomb life extension program: Funds the Department of Energy contribution to the program at the request level of $537 million and the Department of Defense contribution at the request level of $67.8 million. The bill includes a Sense of Congress that— (1) the B61–12 life extension program must be a high priority of the National Nuclear Security Administration; (2) the B61–12 life extension program must be given top priority in the budget of the Administration and, if necessary, funding should be shifted from other programs of the Administration to ensure that the B61–12 life extension program stays on schedule to begin delivering B61–12 nuclear bombs to the military by not later than fiscal year 2020; and (3) further delays to the B61–12 life extension program would undermine the credibility and reliability of the nuclear deterrent of the United States and the assurances provided to allies of the United States. The House bill increased funding for the B61 life extension program by $44 million above the budget request. It also contained a provision that would cut 20% of the budget for Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) unless the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) certifies to Congress that the B61 life extension program will produce the first refurbished weapon by 2019.
W78/W88-1 nuclear bomb life extension program: Funds the Department of Energy request for the program at the request level of $72.7 million. The bill requires a comparative analysis of the feasibility of and cost comparison for the interoperable warhead as well as the two strategic warheads it will replace and any other life extension option the Nuclear Weapons Council deems appropriate to ensure the Congress understands the full cost (and risk) implications of the proposed program. None of the authorized funds for the life extension program may be spent for development engineering until the comparative analysis is submitted to Congress.
Total funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities account: Authorizes $7.9 billion for weapons activities, an increase of $40.8 million above the budget request.
Rebuilding the Nuclear Triad: Fully funds the Department of Defense research and development request for the Ohio class replacement program, the Long-Range Strike bomber program, a follow-on to the air launched cruise missile, and a follow-on to the Minuteman III ICBM. The bill also prohibits the use of fiscal year 2014 funds to eliminate a leg of the triad and includes a Sense of Congress that (1) it is the policy of the United States to modernize the nuclear triad and sustain the nuclear stockpile, its production facilities, and science base, (2) Congress is committed to providing the resources needed for this modernization and that Congress supports the modernization or replacement of the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems, and (3) the Air Force should continue to prioritize development and acquisition of the long-range strike bomber program.
Improving missile defense sensor and discrimination capabilities: Requires the Missile Defense Agency to deploy a missile defense radar at a location optimized to support defense of the homeland against long-range missile threats from North Korea, and would authorize $30 million for initial costs toward such deployment. The bill also authorizes an additional $50 million for the Missile Defense Agency to develop enhanced discrimination capability for the Ballistic Missile Defense System. Furthermore, the bill directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct an evaluation of options and alternatives for future sensor architectures for ballistic missile defense in order to enhance the ballistic missile defense capabilities of the United States.
Improving the ground based midcourse defense (GMD) system: Requires a report on options and a plan to improve the kill assessment capability and the hit assessment capability of the GMD system. The bill authorizes $100 million for design and development of common kill vehicle technology for an upgraded enhanced exo-atmospheric kill vehicle for the GMD system, an increase of $30 million above the budget request. In addition, the bill provides an additional $80 million for the Missile Defense Agency to continue efforts to understand the cause of and correct the problem that resulted in the GMD flight test failure on July 5, 2013, using the Capability Enhancement-I (CE-I) kill vehicle.
A third national missile defense interceptor site: Authorizes an additional $20 million for the Missile Defense Agency to continue activities relative to the site evaluation study for a third national missile defense site, the Environmental Impact Statement, and planning activities, including the development of the contingency plan for the deployment of an additional homeland missile defense interceptor site. The House NDAA contained a provision that would require the Missile Defense Agency to construct and make operational in fiscal year 2018 an additional homeland missile defense site and authorized $140 million in unrequested funds to begin construction of such a site. The House bill also includes $107 million in unrequested funds to begin long-lead procurement of an additional 14 ground based interceptor rocket boosters.
Total missile defense funding: Authorizes missile defense programs at $9.5 billion, an increase of $358 million above the budget request.
Weapons of mass destruction material security and nonproliferation funding: Authorizes $424.5 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the same as the budget request. The bill also authorizes $528.0 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, the same as requested amount, but would transfer funds from the programs that will end in Russia ($75 million) to Cooperative Threat Reduction nonproliferation efforts in the Middle East.
Syrian chemical weapons destruction: Gives a two year enhanced funding authority for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons. The bill permits the Pentagon to transfer funds to Syrian chemical weapons destruction from other accounts in the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.
Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX): Authorizes $543.0 million Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Program in South Carolina, an increase of $40 million above the budget request.
Other key provisions
Sexual assault: The bill contains over 30 provisions to address the problem of sexual assaults in the military, but did not agree to either the Gillibrand (D-NY) or McCaskill (D-MO) additional measures that were never voted upon in the Senate.
Guantanamo Bay: Leaves in place a prohibition on transfering detainees to the United States, and prohibits contruction or modification of facilities in the U.S. to house detainees, but made it easier to transfer prisoners to other nations. The Obama Administration has been unable to close the facility despite years of trying.
Tricare: Rejects all Administration proposals to establish or increase TRICARE health care fees, deductibles or co-payments.
Soldiers pay: Authorizes funding to support President’s alternative pay plan establishing a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services.
Afghanistan: Includes a modest provision requiring the President to consult with Congress regarding the size, mission and estimated duration of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, post-2014, but does not require a vote in Congress. The Administration hopes to leave up to 10,000 troops in the country after 2014 for as many as 10 years.
Iran: While there are no new sanctions included in the Defense Authorization, the legislation recognizes the continued threat posed by Iran and calls for additional measures to assess Iran’s terrorist and criminal associations, to be included in the annual Iran Military Power Report.
Troops strengths: Authorizes FY 2014 active-duty end strengths for the Army of 520,000; the Navy, 323,600; the Marine Corps, 190,200; and the Air Force, 327,600.
Base Closings and Realignment (BRAC): States that an additional round of base closures at this time would be costly and come at the expense of long-term strategy.
Flag officers: The bill reduces flag officer billets by 24 and calls for a report by the Secretary of Defense that reflects “the efficiencies that can be achieved through downgrading or elimination of reserve component general or flag officer positions, including through the conversion of certain reserve component general or flag officer positions to senior civilian positions.”
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): Authorizes $2.6 billion for Navy and $3.4 billion for Air Force Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. Requires a long-term plan to sustain the program and an independent assessment of software programs for the JSF.
New aircraft carrier: Increases the cost cap on the CVN-78 program to $12.9 billion.
Littoral Combat Ship: Authorizes $1.79 billion for procurement and $406 million for research, in line with the President’s request. Requires a lifetime plan for carrying out the program as well as improved oversight.
Ground Combat Vehicle: Limits funding for the next stage of development until the Secretary of the Army submits a status report to Congress.
M1 Abrams Tank: Provides $178 million for modernization, along with a $90 million program increase for upgrades. Requires the Secretary of the Army to submit a report on improving fuel efficiency.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle: Provides $84 million for procurement and $50 million for research, in line with the President’s request.