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Senate and House Committees Reach Defense Bill Compromise

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A bi-partisan compromise on a new defense authorization bill will put additional oversight on the joint Strike Fighter program. US Navy Photo

A bi-partisan compromise on a new defense authorization bill will put additional oversight on the Joint Strike Fighter program. US Navy Photo

The House and Senate armed services committees have agreed to a last minute compromise defense bill that would authorize funds to fully fund the Pentagon’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014, committee leaders said in a press conference late Monday afternoon.

The draft of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will fully fund the Department of Defense’s April $526 billion discretionary budget, according to a fact sheet from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) provided to USNI News.

The NDAA also allows for an additional $80.7 billion to fund the war in Afghanistan in a so-called Overseas Contingency Operations.

With the Republican HASC and the Democrat Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in alignment with the bill, the House and the Senate now will have the rest of the week to vote on the bill ahead of a congressional recess for the end of the year.

“This is the only way we can pass a bill this year,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said during the Monday press conference.

“We owe the men and women in uniform and the national security to finish this bill,” said Rep Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at the same conference.

Levin said the ability for the Pentagon to give out for combat pay and variety of other authorizations prompted the compromise.

Several congressional sources told USNI News the compromise bill was likely to pass both houses.

However — even if the authorization bill is signed into law — a separate budget committee will weigh in on the appropriations for the defense bill. The committee will wrestle with the so-called sequestration cuts that cut 10 percent of the Pentagon’s budget as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Both sides of the budget must be completed by Friday — the last day Congress is in session in 2013.

The bill’s provisions include:

– Starting work on an East Coast missile defense shield.
– Increased oversight on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programs.
– Authorization for a new Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear aircraft carrier
– Advanced procurement for a new round of F-18 E/F Super Hornet carrier-based fighters
– Authorization for the Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)
– Prohibits the Pentagon from starting a new round of base closures