Friday, May 16, 2014

Note from AFA: FY15 House Armed Services Committee National Defense Authorization Act

Last week the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the bill will likely be taken up by the full House next week. In its current form HR 4435 (bill and report) would keep the Air Force from adapting to smaller future budgets in several ways. Broadly speaking the HASC bill does so by retaining force structure while cutting Operations and Maintenance accounts to pay for other committee priorities to the tune of approximately $1.5 billion in fiscal 2015.
Here is a summary of top USAF issues in the bill:
  • Personnel: The Committee rejected administration proposals to increase TRICARE fees, reduce the commissary subsidy and to reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for active duty members. The Committee was silent on the President's Budget proposal to support a 1 percent pay raise, as opposed to the Employment Cost Index (ECI) rate of 1.8 percent. Current law allows the President to implement a pay raise alternative to ECI, an authority he exercised last year, to limit the raise to 1 percent. Other key personnel-related provisions include: a pay freeze for flag and general officers in FY 2015, improving sexual assault prevention and prosecution, $45 million for behavioral and mental health programs for Special Forces, a report on child custody for deployed service members and a study on suicide in the military.
  • A-10: Chairman Buck McKeon's (R-CA) original mark up proposed putting the 283 aircraft in the A-10 fleet in type 1000 storage, which would allow for later return to service. Congressman Ron Barber (D-AZ) offered an amendment prohibiting any A-10 retirements in FY15, and paid for the year's cost by redirecting $635 million from Overseas Contingency Operations accounts. Despite the Chairman and Ranking Member's opposition, the amendment passed 41-20.
  • U-2: The bill prohibits retirement of the U-2.
  • E-3 AWACS: Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) offered, and the committee adopted, an amendment prohibiting retiring more than four AWACS by taking $39 million from Operations and Maintenance accounts, and calling on the Air Force to certify how it will meet Command and Control requirements.
  • BRAC: The bill prohibits any activities for a future BRAC. Ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced and then withdrew an amendment allowing the Department of Defense to do a BRAC in 2017. That amendment will be considered when the bill goes to the House floor.
Agreed upon priorities
  • KC-10: Although there were no plans to cut KC-10s this year, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) pushed through an amendment prohibiting KC-10 retirements in FY15.
  • The HASC NDAA fully funds the administration's F-35 request at 26 aircraft for the Air Force; Long Range Strike is also fully funded at $916 million.
  • The bill cuts $226 million from the KC-46 tanker program for first production lot of 7 aircraft – down to 6. Several amendments attempted to restore tanker to full funding, but failed.
Other items
  • Cyber directives: The HASC states there is significant confusion about Air Force investment in cyber capabilities, and directs the service, in coordination with the Director of the NSA, to provide the defense and intelligence committees with a report "that captures the aggregate of Air Force investment in cyber, laying out where the various elements of Air Force cyber are nested, and how those elements are integrated within the overall Air Force and DoD cyber enterprise."
  • Space
    • Launch: Directs the last of several old (1990s technology) weather satellites be put on the launch manifest for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, and that an additional launch for a future, to-be-decided payload, be competed and acquired in FY15; adds $135 million for that launch.
    • Requires work to begin on finding a replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine by adding $220 million.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin its own NDAA mark up deliberations next week, and as is often the case, it is expected to differ widely from the proposals and priorities put forward by the HASC bill.
Stand by for further updates on these and other congressional developments.

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