Defense bill passes the House

Reverses cuts to military, provides full pay raise to troops

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the annual defense policy bill that authorizes spending for military personnel, weapons systems, national security programs, and foreign military operations by a vote of 375 to 34. This is the second National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be passed under U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry’s (R-TX) chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.

“Above all else, this bill is focused on supporting the men and women who keep our nation safe. It provides them the full pay raise to which they are entitled by law, it improves their health care system, it ensures they receive the equipment and training they need to do their jobs, and much more,” Thornberry said. “It also makes a clear statement to our friends and adversaries across the world that the United States will have the means to defend itself, and it begins to reassure the men and women who serve our nation that whatever they are asked to do, they will be prepared and supported fully.”

The bill authorizes nearly $619 billion in spending for national defense, which is $3.2 billion more than requested by the President. It also includes the largest pay increase for service members in six years at 2.1 percent. President Obama attempted to reduce it to a 1.6 percent raise.

This year’s NDAA not only stops the damaging cuts to our military’s size, it begins to make it stronger. It starts to stabilize the readiness problems that are making it more difficult for our troops to accomplish their mission and increasingly represents a danger to the lives. It contains landmark reforms to improve our military’s strength and agility.

Locally, the bill authorizes funding for national security facilities and programs such as training missions at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, including $91.9 million in construction projects. In addition, about $1.66 billion total is authorized for Bell’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of 16 new Ospreys and 24 new AH-1Z / UH-1Y helicopters for the Marine Corps. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo.

It provides $9.4 billion in funding for nuclear weapons activities—including those performed at Pantex—which is a $186 million increase to the budget request. This includes full funding for the critically important production work at Pantex for the W76 life extension program. To help address the severe backlog of maintenance on physical infrastructure across the National Nuclear Security Administration, the bill provides $106 million for recapitalization projects and preventative maintenance. The bill also includes $730 million for defense nuclear security, an increase of $60 million to the budget request, to recapitalize aging physical security equipment located at Pantex and Y-12.

The NDAA improves access to quality care for service members, retirees, and their families, while enhancing medical readiness. Reforms ensure that the generous benefit our troops deserve and have earned is sustainable for generations to come. These reforms make no changes for the current force or retirees.

Other highlights include:

Military Personnel and Pay: The bill supports a 2.1 percent pay raise for service members.

BRAC: Prohibits another round of base closings.

Commissaries: Reforms the commissary system to preserve the benefit, while also making improvements to ensure continued saving for shoppers.

Strengthens Military: Reverses cuts to troop strength; increases investments in training and maintenance programs; and rebuilds crumbling facilities like barracks, hangars, and airfields.

Deterring Russia: Provides funds for more troops and equipment in Europe to deter Russia, as well as additional funds to assist Ukraine.

Fighting ISIS: Provides funds to train and equip Syrian fighters and assist Iraqis in re-taking Mosul, and adds funds to make sure that Kurdish and Sunni allies are able to stay in the fight.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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