Senate passes 2019 National Defense Authorization Act

Senate passes 2019 National Defense Authorization Act

Monday, July 16, 2018

After nearly two weeks of stops and starts, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the fiscal 2019 defense authorization bill.

Cloture, a procedure used by the Senate to end debate on a bill without also rejecting the bill, was necessary because of Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ken., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, who sought votes on amendments related to indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens.

In response, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., objected, causing Paul and Lee to object to consideration of other amendments thus creating an impasse.

Once cloture was invoked, the Senate voted to pass the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, a bill which includes a host of amendments aimed at making major changes to the Pentagon’s planning and acquisition processes and to the military officer personnel system.

Senators believe that proposed reforms to the Office of the Secretary of Defense would “support effective implementation” of the National Defense Strategy (NDS), a document delivered to Congress by DoD’s leadership earlier this year, and that “organizational change will be key to addressing systemic problems and positioning the Department to confront the challenges outlined in the NDS.”

Like the House-passed bill, the committee authorized a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces and increased the Army’s end strength.

However, the Senate bill authorizes an increase of 2,200 soldiers as opposed to the 4,000-person increase requested by the administration and approved by the House.

Amendments intended to “modernize the 38-year-old officer personnel system to provide career flexibility and better serve the demands of today’s force” were included in the measure.

The amendments would:

  • Create an alternative promotion and continuation process for selected officers that allows for multiple opportunities for promotion, removes predetermined officer promotion timelines, and creates a term-based selective continuation process.
  • Expand officer spot promotion authority to all services up to the grade of O-6.
  • Abolish year-group officer management policies.
  • Increase constructive credit to allow initial appointment up to the grade of O-6.
  • Allow officers in grades O-2 and above to extend careers to 40 years of service.
  • Repeal age-based officer appointment requirements.
  • Revoke statutory officer grade limitation table and requires annual authorization of mid-grade officers.
  • Authorize high-performing officers to be promoted ahead of peers.
  • Mandate more detailed officer manpower requirements process.

The committee voted to fully fund the administration’s budget request for Army helicopters: $1.04 billion for 60 AH-64E Apaches; $1 billion for 50 UH-60M Blackhawks; and, $124 million for 7 CH-47 Chinooks.

It also authorized:

  • $1.53 billion for 135 M1A2SEP v3 Abrams tanks
  • $319 million for the Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle program
  • $205 million for 61 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the European Deterrence Initiative
  • $190 million to prototype the next generation combat vehicle
  • $529 million for 46 Paladin Integrated Management sets
  • $123 million to accelerate the development of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery gun
  • $610 million for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle

The bill now heads to a conference committee with the House-passed bill to iron out any differences.