Armed Services Committee passes $716 Billion Defense Policy

The House Armed Services Committee early Thursday morning easily passed its $716 billion defense policy bill for fiscal 2019.

The committee’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed, 60-1, after more than 14 hours of debate. It now moves to the full House for a vote later this month.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was the only “no” vote, and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) was not present.

The committee considered about 400 amendments before the final vote, with debates largely centered around policy issues. Congress had already agreed on the final authorized topline amount as part of a two-year budget deal earlier this year.

What made it in: The bill would authorize nearly 16,000 additional active-duty troops across the military, provide a 2.6 percent pay raise for them — the highest such raise in nine years — and authorize almost $40 billion for aviation upgrades and more than $25 billion for equipment maintenance.

It would also authorize two more Virginia-class submarines and littoral combat ships, 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and the upgrade of thousands of vehicles.

The Fourth Estate: Thornberry originally planned to add reforms aimed at cutting the Pentagon’s defense agencies’ budget by more than $25 billion by 2021.

The plan, which included closing seven of the 28 agencies not directly under military services, was pulled back slightly after pushback from Democrats and the Pentagon, leaving cuts up to the Pentagon’s chief management officer.

Still, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced an amendment to attempt to save the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) from elimination.

“It remains unclear what would happen to DISA’s missions and functions,” Brown argued of a potential shuttering, instead proposing a Pentagon report to look at the matter before any consolidation. His amendment was defeated along party lines.

But Thornberry’s plan to cut the Test Resource Management Center was voted down.

Aviation accidents: The committee endorsed an amendment offered by committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to establish an independent commission to study military aviation safety. The proposal comes after a series of deadly military aircraft incidents, including a C-130 cargo plane crash last week that killed all nine on board.

Space force: Among the amendments that were rejected was a proposal offered by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), that would have slowed plans for President Trump‘s desired Space Force. It was defeated unanimously.

Trump administration travel: An amendment that would have required the Pentagon to report on the cost of Trump administration officials using military aircraft for travel was narrowly defeated, 30-31.

Other failed amendments: A provision to limit Trump’s planned Veterans Day military parade to only ceremonial units and equipment; a proposal to limit the role of National Guard troops ordered to the U.S.-Mexico border by Trump; and one to prevent Department of Defense funds from going to building a border wall.

In addition, Republicans shot down Smith’s amendment to remove low-yield nuclear weapons from the bill, 28-33.

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