This bill would authorize federal spending on national defense programs for fiscal year 2017. It proposes $619 billion in spending, $543 billion of which would go toward the Dept. of Defense’s (DOD) base budget. $59 billion would be set aside to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and overseas bases — about $18 billion more than the president requested in his budget.
The total amount of funding authorized by this bill has changed over time due to amendments made in the House and Senate. The current version would provide a 2.1 percent pay raise for troops, in addition to providing $5.8 billion for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Europe and a further $3.2 billion for force readiness. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA for short) is as long and complex as the U.S. military's day to day operations. Here are some of the highlights of this very, very long piece of legislation:
The base funding level for national defense was set by the Bipartisan Budget Agreement at $543 billion, which includes the DOD’s base budget. Of the $59 billion in OCO funding, $5 billion goes to functions normally funded through the base budget.
Troops and Families
This legislation authorizes $134 billion to be spent on pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, and change of station compensation to members of the military and their families. There would be a 1.6 percent pay increase for all members of the military. It also authorizes personnel levels for the active duty and reserves at the same level as the president’s budget request, meaning the:
Active duty Army would shrink by 20,000 troops to 460,000 soldiers;.
Marines Corps would continue to have 182,000 active duty Marines, in addition to 38,500 reservists.
Navy would have a total of 380,000 active duty and reserve sailors;
Air Force would be composed of 491,700 active duty, reserve, and National Guard airmen;
Army National Guard and reserves would have 335,000 and 195,000 soldiers, respectively.
Over $46 billion would be spent on acquiring or upgrading a wide variety of military equipment to meet current and future threats and improve the Armed Forces’ readiness. Here are some of the highlights:
$10.5 billion would go to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, while another $13.7 billion would be spent acquiring new aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Additionally, over $500 million would be spent on upgrading aircraft and helicopters;
$11.4 billion would be spent on building two Virginia-class nuclear submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and a new amphibious assault ship — in addition to replacing Ohio-class nuclear submarines;
$7.5 billion would go to the Missile Defense Agency, plus another $115 million dedicated to missile defense systems for the U.S. homeland;
$408 million would to the Joint Improvised Explosive Defeat Fund that focuses on defeating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other military operations.
Further, this legislation would support the full modernization of what’s known as the nuclear triad — including nuclear submarines, nuclear-capable bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Assuring Access to Space
The NDAA repeals a provision from last year’s omnibus appropriations bill that furthered dependence on Russia and requires that assured access to space be achieved without the use of rocket engines designed or manufactured in the Russian Federation. Once the nine Russian rocket engines allowed by the NDAA for FY 2015 and FY 2016 are used, the DOD would be authorized to only use launch vehicles that do not require rocket engines designed or manufactured in Russia. $1.2 billion has been budgeted from FY 2017 to FY 2021 for the effort to build a replacement, in addition to the $453 million spent in the past two fiscal years.
Research and Development
The NDAA looks to promote continued research and development into tools that could assist the military in carrying out its operations. Over $50 million would be put toward advancing directed energy technology. Additionally, DOD laboratory directors would be allowed to use more rapid and flexible personnel practices which includes faster hiring, improved compensation, and the creation of term positions.
Strengthening Homeland Security
The NDAA takes several steps to bolster the defense of the homeland. It would enhance information sharing and coordination of military training conducted on U.S. borders between the DOD and the Dept. of Homeland Security in order to:
Support military readiness;
Increase situational awareness of the border by civilian law enforcement;
Improve the effectiveness of drug interdiction and border security operations.
$688 million in funding would be authorized for DOD counterdrug programs.
The NDAA contains a number of provisions designed to improve the military health system’s ability to provide the timely, quality care beneficiaries deserve. Access to military treatment facilities would be expanded for veterans and certain civilians. This bill would allow for lower co-payments when beneficiaries have to pay for high-value pharmaceuticals and medical services. Eligible beneficiaries would be able to enroll in federal dental and vision insurance programs through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and would have expanded access to telehealth services. A plan to improve pediatric care would also be required.
New healthcare plans would be made available through TRICARE, which provides civilian health benefits for military personnel, retirees, and their dependents. The new plans would be TRICARE Prime, TRICARE Choice, and TRICARE Supplemental.
Enhancing Access to High Quality Healthcare
This bill looks to expand and improve access to care for beneficiaries by requiring a standardized appointment system in military treatment facilities. Local military-civilian integrated healthcare delivery systems would be created, allowing military treatment facilities to form partnerships with civilian health systems and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Operational Medical Force Readiness
The NDAA seeks to match the size of the military health system with the operational needs and medical readiness of the Armed Forces. Headquarters staffing would be reduced to promote efficiency in the management of the military health system. Graduate medical education training programs that don’t directly support the military’s operational medical readiness would be eliminated. Military healthcare provider positions would be allowed to be converted to civilian or contractor positions.
New trauma centers would be established at military medical centers in areas with unmet patient demand. Military trauma specialists would be able to participate in partnerships allowing them to receive training by working at civilian trauma centers. This bill would create a trauma care registry and require the development of standardized tactical combat casualty care training.
TRICARE medical support contracts would be updated to expand access to telehealth programs, let contractors use innovations in the private sector health plan market, and transfer financial risk for delivering healthcare services to contractors and providers.
Update: This provision was eliminated in the amended version that passed the House the week of November 28. Women would be required to register for the draft beginning January 1, 2018 as a result of the DOD’s decision to lift the ban on women serving in combat roles. This legislation would also initiate a study into whether the selective service system should remain as structured and provide the ability to mobilize large numbers of troops, or if a system focusing on specific skill sets would be more desirable.
Supporting Allies and Partners
The NDAA would look to strengthen U.S. support for a variety of allies and partners that fight with the U.S. and help defend common values. Here are some of the highlights:
$3.4 billion would go to the Afghan Security Forces to continue efforts to defeat the Taliban and terrorist organizations that want to harm U.S. interests;
$3.4 billion would support the European Reassurance Initiative by increasing the capability and readiness of U.S. and NATO forces to deter and respond to Russian aggression;
$1.3 billion in consolidated funding would go toward counter-ISIL efforts, which includes “train and equip” programs in Iraq and Syria for moderate groups, in addition to border security operations in Jordan and Lebanon;
Up to $500 million in security assistance would be made available to Ukraine, including lethal military equipment. Half of these funds would be restricted and withheld until Ukraine has undertaken reforms to fight corruption, increase accountability, and sustain security assistance efforts;
$239 million would go to U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs, an increase of $135 million to support the development of the Arrow, Arrow 3, and David’s Sling programs.
This bill would encourage a ban on the sale of lethal military equipment to Vietnam by establishing a process by which future sales can be reviewed. The review would verify that the Vietnamese government is improving its record on human rights, and that the weapons won’t be used to violate the rights and freedoms of civilians in the country.
The DOD would also be directed to carry out an exchange program involving senior military officials with the government of Taiwan with the goal of improving military-to-military relations.
The NDAA would extend the ban on using federal funds to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. and the ban on building facilities in the U.S. There would be an exception for a temporary detainee transfer to the U.S. for emergency medical care. It would also prohibit the transfer of detainees to conflict zones such as Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen to prevent them from returning to terrorist activities. The ban on realigning forces at Guantanamo Bay or closing the naval station would be extended.
Reforming Security Cooperation
This bill would consolidate $2 billion in funding for security cooperation into a new fund that’d be known as the Security Cooperation Enhancement Fund. The DOD would also create a program to oversee the development and management of a professional workforce supporting the DOD’s security cooperation activities, including weapons sales to foreign governments.
Reforming the Military Justice System
The NDAA would implement the most significant reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a generation. The overarching goals of these reforms would be to:
Strengthen the structure of the military justice system;
Enhance fairness and efficiency in pretrial and trial procedures;
Reform sentencing, guilty pleas, and plea agreements.
This section of the bill reforms the Goldwater-Nichols Act in order to improve the accountability, integration, oversight, and strategic planning of military activities. The advisory role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) would be expanded and the CJCS term would grow from two to four years.
The U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) would be elevated to a unified command and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would tasked with evaluating the CYBERCOM leader’s dual role as head of the National Security Agency (NSA).
The Quadrennial Defense Review would be eliminated and replaced with a new framework led by the Secretary of Defense. A Defense Strategy Commission would be established and staffed by independent security experts would be appointed by Congress and make recommendations at the beginning of a new presidential administration. Then after four years, the Secretary would issue a guidance about force structure and resource priorities after four years.