This week we saw the unveiling of the House Armed Services Committee’s $696.5 billion defense authorization bill. The draft, titled 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was revealed on the 26th and asks for $28.5 billion more than President Trump’s defense request.
The House Armed Services Committee voted on Wednesday evening, resulting in an overwhelming show of support for the $696.5 billion defense spending budget for 2018. The Committee passed the bill 60-1, with the lone dissenting vote belonging to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii,) who wants a more precise definition of U.S. involvement in Syria.
Now that the NDAA received the committee’s vote, it will move to the floor to be voted on by the entirety of the House of Representatives.
Committee chairman Mac Thornberry noted that the National Defense Authorization Act will take “significant steps toward rebuilding the military,” a 355-ship Naval fleet, and an additional $6 billion for shipbuilding costs. “There are many moving pieces to the broader budget picture that will develop over this year, but for today and for our responsibilities as the Armed Services Committee, it is important for us to put down this marker for what we need for national defense,” Thornberry said.
The HASC version of the NDAA, if passed, will authorize $621.5 billion in the base budget with an additional $75 billion in the wartime overseas contingency operations (OCO) account. In recent years Congress has subjected defense spending to an equal dollar-for-dollar amount with domestic spending, but the OCO account is exempt from the budget caps and that requirement. The OCO account would also fund $10 billion in base requirements.
A particularly significant aspect of the NDAA can be found in its proposed reforms to the Department of Defense’s purchasing system. This year’s NDAA would allow the DoD to purchase off-the-shelf products via online marketplaces such as Amazon. Chairman Thornberry argued that the Pentagon ought to be able to purchase commercial off-the-shelf products such as bottled water, treadmills and even MRI machines outside the GSA, where prices are typically 13% higher than the open market.
Supporters of the reform claim that the changes to DoD purchasing will allow the Department to act like a commercial buyer and take advantage of the lower price options available and will help move the government away from specialty products and conditions when purchasing off-the-shelf goods. However, industry experts had mixed reactions to Thornberry’s reform, citing concerns about its compatibility with several Congressional requirements and current federal protections.
For the Navy, NDAA calls for an additional five ships to the president’s request for eight: One more DDG-51 (for a total of three), two littoral combat ships (for a total of three), and adds a Puller-class expeditionary sea base.
For the Air Force, the NDAA proposes an additional seventeen Lockheed Martin-made F-35s (for a total of 87), eight Boeing-made Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets (for a total of 22), and six P-8A Poseidon aircraft (for a total of 13).
For the Army, the NDAA calls for 17,000 more troops and upgrades for 29 more Abrams tanks and 33 more Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Clearly, the private sector will be an invaluable partner in assisting the federal government to reach these goals, should the NDAA win approval in the House and Senate.
THIS WEEK’S TOP NEWS STORIES