On July 26th, the House of Representatives approved the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), thus allocating $716 billion to the military.
Notably, President Trump’s wish for legacy – the world’s first space force will not happen in 2019, the NDAA does not contain a single mention of the Space Force. Futurism reported, however, that the omission from the 2019 bill might be due to timing, rather than Congress’ opinion on the matter. Donald Trump only ordered the establishment of a space force branch in June, weeks after the administration submitted most of its other proposals, according to an undisclosed White House official.
Another noteworthy point of the NDAA is the $40 million in funding for Artificial Intelligence (AI) research by the Department of Defense (DoD). From the amount, the Air Force will receive $20 million, the Army and Navy will each get $5 million each, while the yet to be formed AI Commission will receive the leftover 10$ million.
The NDAA is a major move towards the DoD emphasizing on military uses of AI, in a call for DoD-specific workers, labs, test facilities for various military applications.
As for general information on NDAA: The bill complies with the bipartisan budget agreement and authorizes $639.1 billion in base funding. $69 billion are additionally authorized in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. Past that, there is a $8.9 billion for mandatory defense spending, a total of almost $717 billion is allocated for spending.
Other significant provisions of the new legislation include:
To care for troops and their families the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, fully funds a 2.6% pay raise for our troops, and extends a special pay and bonuses for servicemembers in high-demand fields.
The bill aims at restoring readiness by providing:
Increased training – Increased funding for training for each Service. Funding for flying hours has been increased by $24.2 million, funding for other training operations has a total of almost $83 million, above the increase suggested in the President’s Budget Proposal. A further $58.9 million are to be used for the improvement and modernization of major combat range and test facility bases.
Aviation Readiness – The legislation fully supports the President’s budget request of $2.8 billion for the procurement of spare airplane parts and authorizes an additional $100 million for spare parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The bill further includes an increase of $65 million for the A-10 wing replacement program.
Repairing Equipment – $21.8 billion have been allocated for maintenance of equipment, whereas $3.7 billion have been authorized for spare parts.
Regarding readiness at sea the NDAA, in regard to recent fatal maritime accidents, directs the Navy to provide clear chains of command for operations, building readiness and shipyard maintenance. The bill supports the accelerated construction of the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, construction of two additional Littoral Combat ships, and supports two additional Virginia-class attack submarines in fiscal years 2022 and 2023. The bill also authorizes $3.2 billion to pay for development and design work of the Columbia-class submarine.
Building a modern force – in support of the President’s request to purchase new equipment to replace hardware, which is too broken or expensive to repair, or is too old. This includes the authorization of $360 million for Stryker A1 combat vehicles.
Supporting the President’s request to modernize the Army Armored Brigade Combat Team vehicles with 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, 197 Armored multi-purpose vehicles, 38 Improved Recovery Vehicles, and 3,390 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
Authorizing procurement of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, C130 Super Hercules aircraft, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, advanced missiles and amphibious ships.
Authorizing 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters as per the President’s budget request. As well as allocating $85 million for additional UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Army National Guard.
Adding $150 million to accelerate U.S. efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability before FY22, in response to the critical advances Russia and China have made in developing their prompt strike hypersonic weapons.
NDAA continues the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization program and authorizes an additional $623 million for the program. The Army’s Gray Eagle unmanned air system platform and the EQ-4 unmanned aircraft systems are receiving $60 million and $105 respectively.
There is a $470.9 million increase in funding for facility sustainment, an additional $340.5 million is allocated for depot maintenance. $11.3 billion have been authorized for military construction.
In terms for strategic readiness, the bill includes means of Nuclear Deterrence, Missile Defense.
The legislation completely supports the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to ensure technological superiority and provides additional funding to accelerate Artificial Intelligence, machine learning programs, and hypersonic programs.
Legislation also includes a variety of steps to combat Russian aggression towards the US and its allies. These include funding for research and development to counter weapons developed by Russia. Levying new sanctions on Russia’s arms industry. Prohibits military-to-military cooperation with Russia, as well as prohibits US government recognition of the absorption of Crimea. It also fulfills the President’s request for $6.3 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative to further increase number of U.S. troops in Europe, reassure U.S. partners and allies, and deter Russian aggression.
In regard to China the legislation contains an entire government strategy to confront the country. It supports military exercises with Japan, Australia and India and improves security cooperation to counter China’s rising influence in Asia, Southeast Asia, and other regions. There is also support for improving Taiwan’s defenses.
The bill ensures that US forces are ready for a potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea continues its dangerous and destabilizing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
NDAA also authorizes the Counter ISIS Train and Equip Fund to aid partners and allies in their fight against terrorism. It further extends the Syria Train and Equip Fund into 2019. The security cooperation with the Afghan government and the Government of Iraq is also propelled.
Finally, the legislation establishes a Defense Partnership to counter Iran, extends authority for the Counter ISIS fund and expresses Congress’ support for the Gulf Cooperation Council unity.
As reported by USNI, the Pentagon will still need another bill to pass to fully implement NDAA’s authorizations. A separate spending bill still needs to pass, Rep. Mac Thornberry mentioned in his statement after the approval of the NDAA on July 26th. His words were: “Much of the advantage that these measures give our military will be lost, however, if Congress fails to follow the NDAA with an appropriations bill that is both adequate and on time. This is the earliest the House has acted on an NDAA in many years. There is no reason that Congress should not be able to take up and pass the defense spending bill before the end of the fiscal year so that Congress can keep faith with our troops and fully fund the military when we return in September.”