The week defense watchers wait for all year is here.

By Rebecca Kheel

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday in a marathon session most are predicting will go well past midnight.

Ahead of the markup, the committee on Monday released the draft of the bill known as the “Chairman’s Mark.”

The full text is here, a Democratic summary is here and a Republican summary is here.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Dems seek to block border wall: The bill would prohibit using any Pentagon funding for a border wall.

The prohibition on using funds for a wall, fence or other physical barrier is one of several provisions in response to President Trump’s repeated use of the military to fulfill his campaign pledge to build a wall on the southern border.

“The majority members feel strongly that Department of Defense money should not be used for border security,” a committee staffer told reporters ahead of the bill’s release.

No Space Force, yet: The bill right now does not touch President Trump’s Space Force proposal.

But on Monday morning, committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) told reporters Democrats and Republicans worked out an amendment that will be offered during Wednesday’s debate. The amendment closely follows the committee’s 2017 proposal for a space corps, he added.

“This is not President Trump’s idea,” Smith said. “I hope Democrats understand that of the many, many, many bad ideas that this president has had and the many bad things that he has done and the many ways that we should challenge him — don’t think of this as, well, if you’re for the Space Force that means you 100 percent support President Trump.”

Nuclear fight ahead: The bill would require an independent study on the United States adopting a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons.

Nuclear issues are shaping up to be among the most contentious issues as Congress debates this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with Republicans already coming out strongly against what’s in the bill.

The bill does not go as far as Smith has opined about in the past. But it does seek to “start that debate” about the appropriate size and cost of the nuclear arsenal, staffers told reporters ahead of the bill’s release.

“The chairman feels strongly that the nuclear arsenal is too large, that we spend too much money on legacy weapons systems when we have emerging requirements like cyber, like [artificial intelligence], like space, which aren’t getting the kind of focus that’s required, and he wants to reevaluate where we’re spending money, if we’re going to have another money to spend on these emerging things that are coming out,” a staffer said.

The bill would also cut $103 million from the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), the in-development intercontinental ballistic missile meant to replace the Minuteman III. It also requires a report on options to extend the life of the Minuteman III to 2050.

Topline: The bill would authorize a fiscal 2020 defense budget of $733 billion, which covers the Pentagon and Department of Energy nuclear programs.

The Trump administration proposed a $750 billion defense budget. Republicans argue that’s the minimum needed to ensure the U.S. military is ready to counter Russia and China, citing defense officials’ testimony on the need for 3 to 5 percent year-over-year budget growth.

But Smith cited the fact that up until earlier this year, the Pentagon had planned for a $733 defense budget for fiscal 2020.

“I am genuinely concerned, and I think we have enough history with the Pentagon to see it in the past, when they’ve been given more money than perhaps they expected, there is a lot of inefficiency and waste that follows,” Smith said.

Republican views: A senior Republican committee aide told reporters later Monday afternoon the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mac Thornbery (Texas), and other GOP members have not yet made a decision on how they will vote.

Issues that would “trigger a special look” for Republicans if they stay in the bill as is include the topline dollar figure and nuclear issues, as well as readiness and military personnel accounts, the Republican aide said.

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