Senate, House Release Compromise FY 2018 Defense Authorization Bill

November 8, 2017 5:48 PM
Architect of the Capitol photo.

Today the Senate and House Armed Services Committees announced the details of their compromise Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. This conference report, which merges the bills each committee passed earlier this year to create policy and spending authorization for this current fiscal year, allows $626 billion in base budget spending and $66 billion more for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund.

The bill authorizes $26.2 billion for 14 battle force ships — $6.3 billion and five ships more than the Trump Administration request – $1.5 billion and incremental funding authority for either the lead ship in the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement program or the next amphibious transport dock, which would serve as a bridge ship to LX(R) production; $4.3 billion to buy 24 F-35B and 10 F-35C Joint Strike Fighters for the Marine Corps and Navy; $1.9 billion for 24 F/A-18E-F Super Hornets; and much more.

The bill was also updated to include a late Navy request: funding for repairs to Navy destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), which were involved in fatal collisions in June and August, respectively.

This bill outlines defense policy and how defense funding may be spent. The Senate and House Appropriations Committees still need to reach an agreement on the actual line-by-line spending bill before the Navy and Marine Corps have access to any FY 2018 money.

The Senate Armed Services Committee summary of the conference report is available here.

The following are excerpts from key lawmakers’ statements on the FY 2018 NDAA compromise bill:

SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), SASC Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today announced details of the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. This legislation authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy:

“We are tremendously proud of this NDAA, which will strengthen our military, provide our troops a pay raise, bolster missile defense, drive innovation in military technology to secure our global advantage, and build on the defense reforms Congress has passed in recent years. Most importantly, this legislation will help reverse the dangerous readiness crisis that is endangering the lives of our men and women in uniform.

“The FY18 NDAA conference report authorizes funds for base budget requirements of $626 billion. Together with $66 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) warfighting account and $8 billion for other defense activities, the legislation supports a national defense topline of nearly $700 billion—a $26 billion increase above the President’s combined initial and amended budget requests.

“We are also proud of the bipartisan process that led to this conference report, which took hard work and thoughtful collaboration from members on both sides of the aisle. As this legislation moves toward final passage and to the President’s desk, we are confident it will continue the bipartisan tradition of supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces and enable them to rise to the challenges of our increasingly dangerous world.”

HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)

“The FY 18 NDAA contains many policy provisions that will strengthen the national security of the United States. I am proud of the bipartisan effort with Chairman Thornberry, Chairman McCain, and Ranking Member Reed that has gone into crafting it. This bill takes important steps to counter the Russian campaign to undermine democracy worldwide; recognize climate change as a direct threat to U.S. national security; combat terrorism; enhance Congressional oversight of the Trump administration; and support our men and women in uniform.

“Although this bill authorizes $692 billion in defense spending, the actual amount we spend on defense will ultimately be decided by Congressional budget negotiations that have barely even begun, and on our ability to enact relief from the Budget Control Act. It is unlikely that those numbers will correspond. This should not be the case: What Congress and the United States desperately need is a consistent, long-term plan to fund the Department of Defense and our national security activities that does not rely on short-term resolutions, budgetary gimmicks, and magical thinking.

“It is the height of craven politics and irresponsibility to, on the one hand, complain about an inadequate defense budget, while on the other hand pushing a $1.7 trillion tax cut. We are currently $20 trillion in debt. The connection between our overall budgetary situation and the pressures on the defense budget is as clear as day, and enacting a tax cut that large would be a completely unjustified deficit blowout that only makes the situation much, much worse.”

HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.)

The bill is the main mechanism through which Congress ‘provides for the common defense’ of our nation. This bill equips, supplies, and trains our troops; provides a better livelihood for them and their families; and sets critical national security policy to face a dangerous world. … This increases the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Guard, and Reserve commensurate with the threats we face, and fully funds a 2.4% pay raise for our troops.

“We face a wide array of threats around the globe and this bill provides the authorities and resources for our men and women of the Armed Forces to do the job we’ve asked them to do,” Rep. Wittman said. “The NDAA Conference Report puts the Defense topline at the right level. This authorization fully funds the president’s budget and provides for all of the requests from the services as part of their unfunded requirements.”

“In addition, we have accelerated the build rate to achieve the nation’s strategic goal of a 355-ship Navy. The President’s budget request asked for funding for eight ships, and we authorized funding for an additional five battle force ships for a total of thirteen. With an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, two Littoral Combat Ships, a Puller-class Expeditionary Support Base, and a San Antonio-class Amphibious Landing Platform, we are sending a clear signal that a 355-ship Navy is not just a theoretical idea, but rather an attainable reality. This bill also supports advance procurement funding attack submarines and fully funds the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine development, which allows us to deliver critical undersea capabilities at the lowest cost to the taxpayers.”

In addition to funding extra ships Navy, this bill also provides substantial relief for our aging Naval and Air Force aircraft. The bill boosts Air Force procurement by fully funding the development of the B-21 Raider bomber program and adding funds for an additional 2 KC-46A air refueling aircraft, 6 MC-130J transport aircraft and 1 HC-130J special mission aircraft. Further, it provides funds to procure an additional 3 P-8A anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and 4 KC-130J air refueling aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps.

“Despite its successes, I am disappointed that the FY18 NDAA does not include language that would authorize a multi-year deal for two aircraft carriers, specifically CVN-80 and -81. It is clear to me that the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense yet again slowed down an initiative that could have saved $2.5 billion for the taxpayers. I think Secretary of the Navy Spencer is on track to deliver a 355-ship Navy and we need to better support his business acumen to deliver sound ideas in cost effective ways. I will not stop advocating for our men and women in uniform as well as our talented shipbuilders; we will work on this again next year.”

HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.)

“I am proud that once again, the House Armed Services Committee has worked across the aisle to produce a thoughtful agreement that invests in our nation’s defense. Not many committees these days can point to bipartisan action and regular order – let alone a full conference agreement. The leaders of our committee, Chairman Thornberry and Ranking Member Smith, as well as my partner on the seapower subcommittee, Chairman Rob Wittman, deserve high marks for setting the right tone to get this year’s bill done.

“I am particularly pleased that this agreement addresses one of the most obvious and egregious shortfalls in the Trump Administration’s 2018 budget request – namely, the lack of any robust plan to increase our fleet size to 355 ships. As I noted when the budget was released earlier this year, the requests we received was a 278 ship budget for a 355 ship Navy. Working together, Chairman Wittman and I collaborated on a strong initial draft in the House and a strong final agreement today- one that puts our nation on the right path to a larger fleet.

“This agreement retains bold action to expand our attack submarine fleet–one of my highest priorities which started with our efforts in the subcommittee. With authority to go up to 13 submarines in the next contract being negotiated right now, and the additional funding authorization and flexibility provided, the Navy can start to address the looming shortfall in the fleet that will strain our submarine and fall short of our national security needs.

“All in all, this is a good agreement for our military, for the hard working men and women in Connecticut that support a strong national defense, and for our country.”

Overall, the conference agreement authorizes 17 ships, nearly double the number that was requested by the Trump administration.

The additional battle force ships above the budget request, including 1 destroyer, 2 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), 1 amphibious ship and 1 Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB). The agreement also authorizes an additional 4 non-battle force ships, including 1 heavy icebreaker for the US Coast Guard.

Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes $5.9 billion for the Virginia class submarine program. Of the total, $3.3 billion supports two submarines in 2018, in line with the current block IV multi-year contract.

  • Increasing Attack Submarine Build Rate –The measure includes multiyear procurement authority for up to 13 Virginia-class attack submarines for the next five years, three more than currently planned by the Trump Administration. This would allow the Navy to sustain the two a year rate at a minimum, and add a third boat in 2020, 2022 and 2023. To support this increased production rate, the mark authorizes $2.6 billion in advanced procurement funds, $700 million more than the budget request. The agreement provides flexibility that allows this money to be used in support of additional submarine construction above the two a year build rate, economic order quantity authority to support construction across the block, or industrial base improvements for second and third tier suppliers.
  • Ohio Replacement Submarine – fully supports the $1.9 billion requested for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine, ensuring that we continue to make steady progress on this foundational component of our nation’s security and a significant driver of economic recovery in eastern Connecticut. Of the total, about $1 billion is authorized in research and development, and $843 million in shipbuilding funds to support continued detailed design of the submarine.
  • National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund – The measure continues Courtney’s ongoing efforts to expand the NSBDF to provide the Navy with a greater range of tools to manage the construction of the new submarine. Specifically, the agreement retains Courtney’s efforts to expand “continuous production” authority provided in last year’s NDAA to include a greater range of components. According to Navy estimates, these expanded authorities will save an additional $383 million. This brings the total amount of estimated savings associated with the authorities included in the fund to almost $2 billion.
  • Construction authorities — Within the total requested for the program, the report also authorizes the budget request of nearly $90 million to utilize two authorities provided by the NSBDF: continuous production of missile tubes and advanced construction activities on the first Columbia class boomer, SSBN-826. These authorities were provided in prior years and demonstrates the Navy’s interest and commitment to utilize the tools that the committee is providing.
Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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