The first National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be passed during U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry’s (R-Clarendon) chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee is headed to the Senate for approval and then to the President’s desk. The bill includes funding for Sheppard Air Force Base, the Pantex Plant, and the V-22 Osprey program at Bell Helicopter’s Military Aircraft Assembly Center in Amarillo. The bipartisan legislation passed the House 270-156.
“This year’s NDAA provides the resources our troops need for a strong national defense and does so in a fiscally-responsible way, while also reforming the way the military does business and cares for the troops,” said Thornberry.
The bill authorizes nearly $612 billion in spending for national defense. The funding in the bill is consistent with the House Budget Resolution that balances the federal budget and reduces government spending by $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years. President Obama has threatened to veto the defense bill if Congress does not agree to increase federal spending on domestic programs, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It would be irresponsible for the President to veto this bill, especially while the Taliban is retaking Afghan cities, ISIS is marching across the Middle East, and Russia is on the ground in Ukraine and now in Syria,” Thornberry continued. “The men and women who are protecting America and American interests across the world deserve better from their Commander-in-Chief.”
Locally, the bill authorizes funding for national security facilities and programs such as training missions at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls. In addition, about $2.8 billion total is authorized for Bell’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new AH-1Z / UH-1Y helicopters for the Marine Corps. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo. The NDAA also empowers military commanders to permit a member of the Armed Forces to carry appropriate firearms, including personal firearms, at Department of Defense (DoD) installations, reserve centers, and recruiting centers by the end of the year.
The legislation provides $8.8 billion in funding for nuclear weapons activities—like those performed at Pantex. To help address the severe backlog of maintenance on physical infrastructure across the National Nuclear Security Agency, the bill authorizes $50 million specifically for recapitalization projects and an additional $25 million for preventive maintenance. Another $645 million for defense nuclear security with an additional $12 million to reinvigorate efforts to recapitalize aging physical security infrastructure and $234 million to provide for much needed efforts to improve emergency response at Pantex and other nuclear weapons facilities.
The NDAA implements major reforms to the DoD’s broken acquisition system to make it more efficient and agile. Thornberry, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), and other members of the Armed Services Committees engaged with experts at the DoD, in the defense industry, and within Congress with a focus on reforming the DoD.
A key compensation reform in the bill will provide a new retirement system for future military service members. The system would allow new service members to contribute to a portable 401(k)-style retirement plan with matching contributions from the government of up to five percent of basic pay. Eighty-three percent of service members leave the military before the current 20-year mark to qualify for retirement. Current members will have the option of being grandfathered into the old system or choosing the new system, and the provision would not affect veterans who have already retired.
The bill reauthorizes bipartisan prohibitions against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. and against building detention facilities in the U.S. Thornberry has expressed serious concerns about the circumstances of those transfers and of former detainees returning to the battlefield.
- The bill supports a 1.3 percent pay raise for the military.
- BRAC – Prohibits another round of base closings.
- Pantex – Increases funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons activities.
- Bell – Includes about $2.8 billion total for Bell V-22 and helicopter programs, much of which is done in Amarillo, including procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new helicopters for the Marine Corps.
- Sheppard AFB – Includes funding for activities at Sheppard AFB in the personnel account and operations and maintenance account.
- Health care – Requires the DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide the same medications to treat psychiatric conditions, sleep disorders, and pain management to ensure veterans continue to receive the same medications when they leave the military service and enter the VA health system.
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