A House and Senate conference committee struck an agreement Wednesday on a $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act, a sprawling piece of legislation that will guide military policy in 2018. The legislation must still be passed by Congress and signed by the president. It proposes a major hike in defense spending and a raft of Pentagon reforms.
Lawmakers also have to agree on a deal to raise defense spending caps from $549 billion where they are now if they want to fund the military at a higher level.
Here’s a rundown of the major items in the NDAA:
The military would be authorized to buy 90 F-35 joint strike fighters from Lockheed Martin for $10 billion. That is 20 more aircraft than President Trump’s budget request. Of those, 56 would go to the Air Force, 24 to the Marine Corps, and 10 to the Navy.
The bill allows the purchase of 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets from Boeing for $1.9 billion, which is 10 more than the president’s budget request.
The NDAA sets a long-term goal of 355 ships as official Navy policy, up from 278 today, and authorizes 14 new ships to be built for $26 billion. That includes five more ships than was requested. The conference committee sided with the House proposal to spend $1.5 billion on three littoral combat ships, which are made by Lockheed Martin and Austal USA. The Navy would also spend $700 million to repair the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald following separate collisions over the summer that killed 17 sailors.
The NDAA conference committee nixed a controversial House proposal to create a new Space Corps military service in the Department of the Air Force, at least for 2018. It instead opted for a number of reforms, including giving Air Force Space Command full authority over space operations and eliminating the service’s principal defense space adviser position, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff for space operations position. However, the Pentagon is being directed to hire an outside research corporation to look into how a separate space service could be created in the future.
The Missile Defense Agency would get $12.3 billion for homeland, regional and space defenses, including more ground-based interceptors, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors made by Lockheed Martin, and Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptors made by Raytheon. The package also incorporates the $4 billion in supplemental missile defense spending requested this week by the Trump administration.
DoD positions get more power
The Pentagon’s chief management officer would become the third most senior position in the building under the NDAA. The new power, which would take effect in February, allows the new CMO to direct service secretaries and the heads of defense organizations on business reforms, which lawmakers hope will improve management and efficiency. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s chief information officer will be a presidentially appointed position and confirmed by the Senate, and partly tasked with offensive and defensive cyber security.
Train and equip
Even as the war against the Islamic State winds down, the bill authorizes the military to spend $1.8 billion on training and equipment for U.S.-aligned forces in Iraq and Syria.
Middle East strategies
The Trump administration would be required to provide Congress strategies for handling security, diplomatic and humanitarian issues in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen, where it is waging counterterrorism operations.
The bill makes it a violation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for sexually explicit photos or video that was consensually produced to then be distributed without the consent of the person depicted. The legislation comes after the military was embroiled by scandal after lewd photos of troops were shared online.
The Afghan security forces would get $4.9 billion of support that includes $1.7 billion for its air force and $41 million aimed at recruiting and integrating women into the forces.
It was no surprise that lawmakers again blocked any attempt to move detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the U.S. The NDAA blocks any spending for transfers and modifying facilities in the U.S. to house detainees, while also blocking any funds to release detainees to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen.