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House and Senate Armed Services Committees Complete Conference on National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.






23 Jul 18. House and Senate Armed Services Committees Complete Conference on National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), today announced details of the conference report for the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy:

“The FY19 NDAA will help provide our men and women in uniform the resources and tools they need to face today’s increasingly complex and dangerous world. This legislation will strengthen our military’s readiness, provide our troops a pay raise, support effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy, drive further innovation in emerging technologies to secure our military advantage, and continue to reform the Department of Defense. The NDAA supports the latest budget agreement of $716bn in fiscal year 2019 for national defense. It authorizes a base defense budget of $639bn for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The focus of this funding will be building a joint force that is ready, equipped, and capable of maintaining military overmatch against potential adversaries. The NDAA also authorizes $69bn for Overseas Contingency Operations. The FY19 NDAA carries on Congress’s long, proud tradition of bipartisanship when it comes to delivering on behalf of our military. We thank each of the conferees for their hard work and thoughtful collaboration. As this legislation moves toward final passage and to the President’s desk, we are confident it will continue to represent how our government can and should function—and serve as a model of how we can work together to solve problems and defend our great nation.” 

Reform and Rebuild: The Next Steps 

The Constitution requires Congress to provide for the common defense, including specific direction to “raise and support Armies,” “provide and maintain a Navy,” and “make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.” For 57 years, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been the primary way Congress executes this constitutional obligation. America’s military is facing challenges on multiple fronts, including the troubling increase in serious training accidents; the re-emergence of competitors like Russia and China; the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea; and the imperative to keep up the pressure on ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act implements new reforms designed to speed decision making and improve military agility, while simultaneously restoring readiness and increasing capability and capacity in a force that has been asked to do too much with too little for too long. The Trump Administration has prioritized rebuilding the military. It issued a new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and a Nuclear Posture Review to address a world with a wider spectrum of serious threats than at any time in recent history. The FY19 NDAA Conference Report focuses rebuilding efforts on these new strategies. The NDAA Conference Report complies with the bipartisan budget agreement and supports a base budget of $639.1bn, including significant increases for improving the readiness of our military forces. The conference report is the result of rigorous bipartisan oversight, numerous visits with military personnel and facilities across the country and around the world, and careful consideration of the testimony to the Committee by Secretary Mattis, Chairman Dunford, and other senior commanders and national security experts.  To help restore military readiness, the NDAA Conference Report authorizes $17.7bn to begin to rehabilitate and replace worn out Army equipment; $40.8bn to begin to overcome the crisis in military aviation by getting more aircraft in the air; $36.3bn to restore America’s strength at sea, and $23.5bn to sustain, repair and rebuild crumbling military buildings and other infrastructure.


In 2017, nearly four times as many members of the military died in training accidents as were killed in combat. In all, 21 Service members died in combat while 80 died as a result of noncombat training-related accidents. As of May 2018, 25 were killed in military aviation mishaps. This tragic statistic is the latest in a chain of evidence that has led Chairman Thornberry and many members of the Armed Services Committee to believe that America’s Military is “at a crisis point.” According to an investigation by the Military Times “accidents involving all of the military’s manned fighter, bomber, helicopter, and cargo warplanes rose by nearly 40 percent from fiscal years 2013-2017.” The Military times notes that 133 service members were killed as a result of those accidents. This crisis is not limited to military aviation. Last summer, the Navy lost 17 Sailors in separate collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald. Navy investigators later found that both accidents were related to ongoing Navy readiness problems. Rebuilding the military so that our troops can safely meet current and future threats is the primary focus of the NDAA Conference Report. Expert testimony to the Armed Services Committee indicates that readiness challenges are too big to overcome in a single year. However, the Committee believes that the conference report will begin to restore the military’s strength while also ensuring training and readiness preparations are much safer.

Increased Training 

The NDAA begins with increased funding for training in each Service. This increase will allow the Army to conduct 20 Combat Training Center rotations in FY19, including four rotations for the Army National Guard, doubling the number of Brigade Combat Teams sent to the Center. It will also enable the Army to hold two Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) culminating training events a year, enhancing the Army’s combat capability and capacity. The conference report also enables the Marine Corps to continue maximizing the capacity of their full- spectrum collective training exercises that will help restore the capability of the Marine Air- Ground Task Force. In addition to the President’s Budget Request, the NDAA increased funding for flying hours by $17.8m. Allowing more time in the air will help reverse the tragic trend of military aviation accidents highlighted above. Similarly, the NDAA increases funding for other training operations. This includes additional funds for simulations and full-spectrum training exercises while also preserving the ability of the Services to provide valuable small-unit training. The Conference Report authorizes funding to improve and modernize major combat range and test facilities to include purchase of advanced threat radars. These upgrades will improve test capabilities on a timeline that will aid the Air Force’s development of next-generation equipment and aerial armament, and addresses limitations, which inhibit the nation’s vital training ranges.

Aviation Readiness 

The NDAA facilitates efforts to better address the increased occurrences of physiological episodes (PEs) in tactical and training aircraft. The bill requires the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force to certify that any new aircraft will all have the most recent technological advancements necessary to mitigate PEs. The NDAA also includes an additional $5m to help accelerate the development of the required technology. The NDAA authorizes $2.8bn for the procurement of spare airplane parts for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, including an additional $92m for spare parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Building on Committee oversight and prior National Defense Authorization Act legislation, the conference report continues to stress the importance of modernizing the A-10 Warthog fleet. It also includes an increase of $65m for A-10 wing replacement and directs the Air Force to consider using multi-year procurement contracts to generate better cost-savings.

Repairing Equipment

Testimony to the Committee and other oversight reveals that the lack of spare parts and aging or inefficient maintenance facilities also degrade readiness. Troops cannot train on equipment that does not work or that is poorly-maintained. Many important types of equipment are being used continually, complicating or preventing the performance of necessary maintenance. The NDAA authorizes $21.8bn for equipment maintenance and $3.7bn for spare parts. This is an increase of $927.9m over the FY18 Omnibus.

Readiness At Sea 

The fatal accidents aboard the USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain highlight the Navy’s readiness challenges. The Navy’s investigation of these incidents found “fundamental failures to responsibly plan, prepare, and execute ship activities and to avoid undue operational risk.” Following these tragic accidents, the House Subcommittee on Readiness and the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces conducted a series of joint oversight activities examining the accidents and overall Navy readiness. As a result, the NDAA:

  • Directs the Navy to review and provide to the Congress a plan to provide clear chains of command for operations, for building readiness, and for shipyard maintenance.
  • Requires the GAO to study whether the Navy should establish separate career paths for Surface Warfare Officers to help produce crews that are properly trained, skilled and led.
  • Limits the time a Navy vessel is forward deployed to no more than ten years.
  • Ensures the Navy retains sufficient ship repair capability in the Western Pacific by prohibiting the redevelopment of the Former Ship Repair Facility on Guam.
  • Requires the Secretary of the Navy to provide a report on ways to optimize surface Navy vessel inspection crew certifications to reduce redundancies and the burden on ship inspection visits.

Additionally, Committee oversight identified flaws in the Navy’s readiness inspection process. Ships and crews often prepare to perform satisfactorily during pre-determined inspection periods rather than maintain a constant state of high readiness. To encourage more consistent readiness, and to eliminate the stress caused by inspection preparation, the NDAA requires the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey inspections to be conducted on a no-notice basis. The bill also mandates that unclassified versions of those reports be made available to the public. Finally, the Committee continues to be concerned about the stress on the Navy forces and families. The Navy has been unable to meet Combatant Commander requirements because it has too few ships. As a consequence, the Navy has occasionally extended the length of time that vessels are deployed. To partially address the vessel shortfall, the NDAA supports the accelerated construction of the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, construction of two additional Littoral Combat Ships, and options to build two additional Virginia-class attack submarines in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

Building A Modern Force

Committee oversight demonstrates that maintaining outdated equipment is more expensive and puts troops at higher risk than procuring newer more capable systems. Further, as a result of constrained budgets, in the past the military postponed the purchase of modernized equipment in order to instead fund current operations and maintain readiness. Because of this, the NDAA supports the President’s request to buy new equipment to replace that which is too broken or too expensive to repair, or lacks modern capabilities required for use against strategic competitors and other current and emerging threats.

In some cases, the NDAA was able to add additional funds above the President’s request. The NDAA:

  • Authorizes $225.3m (an increase of $203.4m) for Stryker A1 combat vehicles, the most survivable and advanced version of the Stryker.
  • Supports efforts to modernize Army Armored Brigade Combat Team vehicles, including 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, 197 Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles, 38 Improved Recovery Vehicles, and 3,390 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
  • Authorizes $461.8m (an increase of $110m) for the most modernized version of the Paladin self-propelled howitzer.
  • Authorizes $452.6m (an additional $168m) to procure six additional AH-64E new production attack helicopters (the most modern version) for the Army National Guard in order to address current shortfalls.
  • Authorizes multiyear procurement authorities for F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, C-130 Super Hercules aircraft, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, and advanced missiles to generate better cost savings for the taxpayer and provide needed capability to the Navy;
  • Supports the President’s budget request for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The conference report also authorizes the Department to procure additional F-35 aircraft, should additional funds become available utilizing cost savings and program efficiencies.
  • Authorizes an additional $85m for additional UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters (the most modern version) for the Army National Guard.
  • Fully funds the B-21 Raider bomber program.
  • Supports 15 KC-46 Pegasus aircraft requested in the President’s budget request.
  • Authorizes $161.5m to support an additional E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.
  • Expands support for legacy C-130 aircraft with an additional $129m for engine upgrades.
  • Supports the President’s budget request to maintain the maximum production rate of critical munitions, such as Small Diameter Bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Hellfire missiles, Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems, Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles, Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missiles and torpedoes, and also authorizes additional funding to address critical need for more munitions.
  • Authorizes the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier.
  • Supports funding for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
  • Authorizes $1.56bn (an addition of $950m) for three Littoral Combat Ships.
  • Authorizes an additional $750m to more efficiently procure destroyers and amphibious ships.
  • Authorizes a total of six Polar Icebreakers to assure United States commercial access to expanding Northern shipping lanes.
  • Mandates retention of a United States Navy Hospital ship capability.
  • Authorizes $250m to recapitalize the cable laying navy vessel, USNS Zeus.
  • Encourages recapitalization of the Navy’s 43-year old auxiliary fleet, which would help to transport Army and Marine Corps forces in times of conflict.
  • Encourages the rapid development and fielding of initial maneuver short range air defense capabilities as well as capabilities to protect against “indirect fire;” all of which are meant to address the challenge of defending against cruise missiles and other aerial threats.
  • In response to the critical advances Russia and China have made in developing their prompt global strike hypersonic weapons, the NDAA adds $150m to accelerate U.S. efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability before FY22.

Airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) 

The NDAA strengthens and improves oversight of the Department’s investments in airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) programs in order to more efficiently and effectively meet combatant commander requirements, to include:

  • Holding the Secretary of the Air Force accountable for increasing current capacity and capabilities for the warfighter related to Battle-Management, Command and Control, and Ground-‐Moving Target Indicator intelligence capabilities, and developing a plan to sustain legacy E-8C JSTARS aircraft until the Advanced Battle-Management System concept reaches a level of acceptable maturity and capability.
  • An additional $60m to improve the capability of the Army’s Gray Eagle unmanned air system platform.
  • An additional $105m for EQ-4 unmanned aircraft; a critical warfighting capability for providing communications relay and high-altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for combatant commanders.

Electronic Warfare 

Requires the Department of Defense to synchronize and unify efforts related to the implementation of cyber and electronic warfare strategy and capabilities. Two warfare areas in which our peer competitors are beginning to outpace U.S. capabilities, and for which the Department of Defense has struggled for years across the Services to implement capabilities coherently.

Rebuilding Infrastructure 

As funding for the military has declined, the Services have diverted money away from buildings and other infrastructure in order to fund training and maintenance. As a result, a considerable amount of military infrastructure urgently needs repair. The President’s Budget Request makes substantial infrastructure investments. Conferees agreed on the need for even more funding.


  • Increases funds for facilities sustainment by $470.9m
  • Authorizes for appropriation $11.3bn for military construction, including family housing, and other infrastructure projects.
  • Adds $397.3m for depot maintenance.

Chairman Thornberry is concerned that the Department of Defense does not have a full and accurate accounting of its real property or a realistic assessment of its excess capacity. Secretary Mattis has testified that he does not believe the Department’s existing assessments of its excess infrastructure are accurate. The Department of Defense did not request a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) effort this year and the NDAA does not authorize one. However, the NDAA does recognize that there are small installations around the country that have outlasted their purpose and their continued operation places an undue burden on the taxpayers and on local communities. The bill includes a new authority to close, with the consent of relevant state and local officials, such small installations where the Secretary of Defense can do so affordably.

Expanding Agility 

Slow decision–‐making and overly-bureaucratic processes drain our military’s fighting strength and pose unacceptable risk to America’s warfighters just as surely as inadequate training or poorly maintained equipment. The NDAA continues Chairman Thornberry’s annual series of reforms to the Department of Defense. Past reforms have streamlined procurement processes, improved health care, and directed DOD enterprise data standards to support well-informed decisions. The President’s Budget Request indicates that Chairman Thornberry’s reforms are already saving the taxpayers billions, including $1bn in health care savings alone. The NDAA provides for a historic clarification of the acquisition process by restructuring the United States Code to logically assemble all acquisition-related statutes in one place for the first time since 1947. In so doing, the conference report also repeals dozens of obsolete provisions of law, prescriptive statutory requirements for positions and offices, and outdated reporting requirements. To further increase clarity and consistency, the NDAA provides for the separation of commercial items into either “commercial products” or “commercial services.” 

Reforming Bureaucracy 

The NDAA also undertakes significant bureaucratic reforms. These reforms focus on a collection of Defense agencies that are not part of a Service and do not report directly to the Secretary of Defense. The almost 30 defense agencies and field activities which comprise this group (which is informally known as the “4th Estate”) account for 20% of DOD’s budget, 25% of the workforce, and have enormous influence on day-‐to-‐day operations. The NDAA empowers the newly-created DOD Chief Management Officer (CMO) to eliminate redundancy and “back office” overhead in these agencies. The CMO will be charged with finding efficiencies and reducing by 25% the budget of certain Department enterprise-wide activities, including logistics, human resources, services contracting, and real property management. This must be done by 2020 and then the CMO must subsequently review these activities every five years. The Secretary and CMO will be given the responsibility to review the function of each component of the 4th Estate to validate its usefulness to Service members, or propose its streamlining or elimination.


Finally, this year’s NDAA continues to emphasize enhanced accountability. For example, it requires the Army Marketing Group to implement measures to improve the effectiveness of its advertising and marketing campaign and to provide additional review and oversight of related contracts. In order to ensure these new accountability procedures are implemented, the NDAA withholds a portion of funding until required action is undertaken. The bill also requires DoD to establish a comprehensive plan for implementing the Department’s new harassment prevention and response policy and to standardize reports of Senior Leader Misconduct. To ensure that the additional readiness resources are spent wisely, the NDAA includes a number of accountability and reporting requirements, including:

  • An enhanced quarterly readiness report that includes measures of cyber and Space readiness.
  • A new requirement for combatant commanders to report their command’s readiness to fight an integrated air, ground, sea, Space, and cyber battle; and • A new requirement for the Government Accountability Office to measure readiness trends compared to resources provided.


Nuclear Deterrence 

Competitors like Russia and China are investing in new strategic weapons designed to challenge the credibility of our nuclear deterrent, undermine our missile defense capabilities, and erode the advantages we derive from Space. The NDAA Conference Report takes a comprehensive approach to ensuring our security by answering each one of those these challenges. Russia and China are building new modern nuclear weapons. At the same time, America’s nuclear deterrent has been neglected. The NDAA supports the efforts outlined in Secretary Mattis’ Nuclear Posture Review and makes critical investments to modernize America’s nuclear deterrent and align it with modern threats. Critics in the nuclear disarmament community falsely claim that the cost to maintain a robust deterrent is not worth the security it provides to the country. The Committee notes that under Secretary Mattis’ plan spending to operate and restore the nuclear deterrent will never exceed 7 percent of defense spending – a reasonable expenditure when one considers that deterrence is the cornerstone of America’s security.

The NDAA: 

  • Supports the Nuclear Posture Review’s recommendation to pursue a lower-yield ballistic missile warhead to strengthen deterrence.
  • Supports the President’s budget request to restore the nuclear arsenal and adds $142.2m for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons activities and defense nuclear nonproliferation program, including efforts to modernize the nuclear weapons stockpile and address NNSA’s aging facilities and other infrastructure.
  • Provides increased funding to accelerate two key Air Force nuclear modernization programs: the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent and the Long Range Standoff cruise missile.

Missile Defense 

The threats from North Korea and Iran demonstrate that the time to debate the utility or practicality of missile defenses has passed. The NDAA:

  • Supports the President’s request for missile defense and adds $140 m to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for development of critical directed energy and Space sensing projects, and the acceleration of hypersonic defense capabilities.
  • Adds $284m to accelerate integration of Patriot (for lower altitudes) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (higher altitudes) missiles to meet the requirements of the Commander of U.S. Forces in Korea.
  • Requires the director of MDA establish a boost phase intercept program using kinetic interceptors, initiate development of a missile defense tracking and discrimination Space sensor layer, and continue efforts to develop high power directed energy for missile defense applications.
  • Requires the Director of MDA to continue development of the homeland defense radar in Hawaii, and that it be operationally capable by FY23.
  • Provides increased funding to address cyber threats to our missile defense systems.
  • Supports the President’s request of $500m for co-development of missile defense systems with Israel, and co-production of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow weapons systems.

Space Warfighting 

Russia and China are developing capabilities to deny the United States the advantages we derive from operating in Space. Equally concerning is the inability of the organizations responsible for the nation’s national security-related Space activities to prepare for Space to become a warfighting domain and to adequately develop and/or acquire essential national security Space systems. Efforts to reform the Department’s approach to Space issues can be summarized in four equally important elements: acquisition reform, resources, cadre development, and joint warfighting. The NDAA comprehensively addresses each one of these to ensure that our Servicemembers are ready to defend our vital national interests in Space. The conference report also ensures that the Department’s Space investments are being executed in a way to ensure increased agility, lethality, and accountability.


  • Directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative process for Space-related acquisitions.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to improve the quality of the Space cadre within the Air Force.
  • Establishes a sub-unified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for Space as a warfighting domain.
  • Supports the President’s request for Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, Protected Satellite Communications, and the Air Force’s Space launch efforts.

(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: This NDAA, as others before it, contains some surprising funding decisions that seem intended more to send money to specific electoral districts than to improve military readiness or capabilities.  The most egregious example concerns the Littoral Combat Ship program, which receives an additional $950m to pay for two additional LCS ships – for a total of $1.56bn to pay for three ships. These $950m were added to the FY19 budget even though the Littoral Combat Ship have been proven to be so incapable and so vulnerable, that US Navy has decided to stop buying them and to replace this program with the FF(X) Future Frigate program. Adding more money to this program is very literally throwing good money after bad.

“The conference report also authorizes the Department to procure additional F-35 aircraft, should additional funds become available utilizing cost savings and program efficiencies.

This is an extraordinary liberty, forsaking Congressional control on the redeployment of funds and giving the Pentagon freedom to buy as many F-35s as it wants as long as the money to pay for them comes from “cost savings and program efficiencies.” 

Furthermore, it is just implied, but not said outright, that the “cost savings and program efficiencies” come from the F-35 program, but the wording could be interpreted to cover other programs as well.

Finally, there are fears that pursuing “a lower-yield ballistic missile warhead,” as the NDAA now authorizes, will lower the nuclear threshold and thus weaken, instead of strengthening, nuclear deterrence.)  (Source: defense-aerospace.com/House and Senate Armed Services Committees)

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