The House Armed Services Committee recently finished marking up this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). As Members of Congress consider the bill, there are many critical pieces they should be aware of. The bill:
- Does not fully fund defense. This authorization is not enough to fully equip and prepare the U.S. military to defend our interests. At this level of funding, the military had to start proposing cuts to make ends meet, but Congress quickly realized that many of these cuts were to critical capabilities for the military. In short, this bill tries to justify robbing one defense need to pay for another. Congress should stop using defense spending as the means to cut the deficit and instead focus on the real problem by reforming entitlement programs.
- Rejects Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC). The bill rejects the Department of Defense’s (DOD) proposal for BRAC. While BRAC should not be used as a means for cutting costs, Congress should support DOD efforts to review whether both domestic and global military installations can meet existing and future military requirements. In some cases, this may even warrant an increase in military installations. In order to properly realign military installations to requirements, Congress should reform the process by requiring a single list of both domestic and U.S. international installations and establish an independent commission to review the choices.
- Wrongly delays the Army aviation restructure. The bill unnecessarily and expensively delays the Army’s ability to restructure aviation resources that better meets the needs of both the National Guard and active Army. Transferring Apache helicopters to the active force would ensure that they maintain proper readiness. Furthermore, the plan transfers some of the active component’s UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to the Guard—a platform much better suited to the Guard’s domestic civil support missions as well as combat missions. Finally, the report requirement is unnecessary, as the Army has already extensively vetted the plan with Guard and Reserve input.
- Supports an 11-aircraft-carrier Navy. The DOD fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request did not request the appropriate amount of money to begin the mid-life refueling of the USS George Washington. This, in effect, would have reduced the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10. Congress was correct in requiring that the Navy maintain an 11-carrier fleet.
- Funds procurement of the Tomahawk. The U.S. Navy decided to drastically reduce the Tomahawk weapons program this year and expected to end the program outright by FY 2016. This would have put the Navy’s ship-based strike capability at risk. Congress was correct in rejecting this request and funds an additional 96 missiles this year.
- Wisely supports the Amphibious Combat Vehicle Program. The U.S. Marine Corps released a thoughtful and responsible new path forward for modernizing its amphibious operations. While Congress was correct in supporting the Marines’ modernization plans, in order to be successful, it should also support the Navy’s amphibious ship capabilities.
- Properly limits funding to biofuels. The Navy should not be forced to spend increasingly limited resources on an overly expensive, unproven alternative fuel source. Costing around seven times as much as regular diesel, biofuels add no strategic value to the Navy’s fleet while diverting funding that could be directed to revitalizing the Navy’s shrinking fleet. Congress should continue to halt the Administration’s efforts to push its energy agenda on the Navy.
- Reaffirms common-sense principles for detainee policy. Detention of the enemy during wartime is lawful and necessary and has been part of all wars in the past. Congress should continue to prohibit the use of funds for the transfer or release of known terrorists into the U.S. Restrictions exist because of understandable concerns about recidivism and premature, politically motivated transfers.
Despite limitations in funding, the bill does make many prudent choices about several critical national security issues. However, Congress should work to fix some of the faults already resident in the current NDAA.