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Senate Armed Services Committee passes 2019 National Defense Authorization Act

Friday, May 25, 2018  
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U.S. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced details of the committee’s markup of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. During the markup, over 300 amendments—offered by both Republican and Democratic members—were considered and adopted. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly, 25-2, to advance this important legislation to the Senate floor.  Once the Senate approves, the bill goes to conference committee for final version to be passed by both chambers. 

Here is a summary of the measure released late Thursday.

Essentially, the NDAA supports the latest budget agreement of $716 billion in fiscal year 2019 for national defense. It authorizes a base defense budget of $639 billion 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 $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.

Under the Senate version, the military’s active-duty end strength would rise by only 7,000, or less than half of the number the Trump administration (Pentagon) requested. The Pentagon’s request, which the House matched in its authorization bill, called for adding 15,600 active personnel in FY 2019. Here is a breakdown by service of the end strength increases recommended under the two bills:

  • Army — 2,241 (Senate), 4,000 (House)
  • Navy — 4,000 (Senate), 7,500 (House)
  • Marine Corps — 100 (Senate), 100 (House)
  • Air Force — 620 (Senate), 4,000 (House).

The Senate Armed Services Committee offset the smaller end strength increases with an initiative to “modernize the 38-year-old officer personnel system to provide career flexibility and better serve the demands of today’s force,” with a goal of helping to better retain mid-career officers, reported Military Times.

The bill includes a number of organizational and management reforms for DOD, but none matching the effort in the House version to reduce spending on overhead by defense support agencies, according to the summary. One provision would redesignate the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness as the undersecretary for personnel and clarify the position’s role as the department’s chief human capital officer.

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