The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) today approved (60-2) the FY2017 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 4909). The HASC bill authorizes $543.4 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program. The authorized amount for the base DoD budget would be $523.6 billion, essentially the same as the president’s request.
HASC Chairman Rep Mac Thornberry (R-TX) praised the bipartisan vote on the bill. “It is encouraging that for the 55th straight year, this Committee can come together, work through difficult issues, and pass a defense policy bill that supports our servicemembers and our national security,” he said. Thornberry emphasized that the bill “stops cuts to our Armed Forces, provides a pay raise for our troops, and makes major reforms in several critical areas, including military health care, the commissary system, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the acquisition system.
The bill authorizes $35.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) available until April 2017. After that the new Administration would, if needed, have to request additional OCO funds for FY2017. The president’s request included $58.8 billion for OCO in FY2017.
The HASC bill also authorizes another $23.1 billion in OCO funding to be used for base budget requirements. The administration request assumes that only $5 billion of OCO funds will be used for base requirements. Providing this amount brings the total funding authorized by the HASC for DoD in FY2017 to $602 billion, equal to the administrations request.
The HASC uses this extra base budget funding, which would not be counted against the budget cap because OCO funding is considered emergency, to pay for additional troops and readiness funding not included in the presidents budget request.
The HASC bill provides military personnel with a 2.1 percent pay raise, 0.5 percentage points higher than the administration’s 1.6 percent request. The bill rejects administration proposals for new fees for military retirees and enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life. The committee also approved giving at least 14 days leave to servicemembers whose spouses give birth. Also, couples who are both in the military and adopt a child would get two weeks leave.
The bill would increase active duty strength by 27,000 over the president’s budget request (20,000 for the Army, 3,000 for the Marine Corps, an 4,000 for the Air Force). The HASC would also set total Army Guard and Reserve strength levels 25,000 higher than the administration requested.
The HASC rejected an administration proposal to initiate another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round. The committee dismissed DoD’s recent report on facilities and force structure levels as not realistically describing the needed future force structure. HASC Ranking Minority member Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced an amendment to establish a base closure commission for another BRAC round. However, as he did last year, Smith withdrew the amendment before a vote could be taken.
The full committee added a provision on a vote of 32-30 that would require the registration of women for the draft. The amendment, offered by Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA) who opposes drafting women, was proposed to openly discuss the issue. Opponents of drafting women hope that this provision will be soundly defeated on the House floor.
The HASC bill adds funding for 14 more F/A-18′s, 11 F-35s, three C-130J, and two MV-22 aircraft. The bill also funds additional Army AH-64 and UH-60M helicopters and two more ships (one LCS and one DDG-51).
The committee-approved bill rejects the administration’s proposal to retire the A-10 fleet and replace it with F-35’s.
The HASC bill includes acquisition reform proposals that accelerates the fielding of new technology more efficiently. It requires the design of weapon systems with open architectures to allow for easier upgrades. The plan also provides flexible funding to allow experimentation of new technologies and simplifies processes to expand “new avenues of competition for suppliers of all sizes,” according to the committee. The bill would provide DoD with “more tools to manage and and approve cost, schedule, and technological risk for major acquisition programs.” And, in a shift of decision authority, the bill would “grant Milestone Decision Authority for Joint Programs to Military Services after October 1, 2019.”
The full House is expected to take up the FY2017 Defense Authorization bill in May before the Memorial Day recess.