The NDAA is Heading to a Vote – Here’s What You Should Know

Dec 10, 2019 | Beyond the Headlines

By Sharon Lo Managing Editor, Defense Transportation Journal and The Source

Yesterday leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees unveiled the conference agreement they have reached for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20). The House is expected to vote on the compromise bill on Wednesday, with the Senate taking it up at a later date.

But, not too much later. Congress has a lot to get done right now, such as avoiding a government shutdown on December 20. That’s when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires, so lawmakers need to pass 12 spending bills and/or CRs before that date to keep the government in operation.

Another key piece of legislation being worked this week is an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Members of Congress are also likely pushing to wrap up several pieces of legislation before next week when a House vote on impeachment is likely. Not to mention, the House was supposed to adjourn for the December recess Thursday evening. As I said, they have a lot to do.


What does the NDAA agreement say? 


The conference version of NDAA authorizes $738 billion in Defense funding for FY20. Of that amount, $635 billion is for Defense discretionary spending and $71.5 billion is for overseas contingency operations. An additional $5.3 billion was earmarked for disaster recovery on military installations affected by natural disasters.



The conference report includes language authorizing a US Space Force as an independent military branch under the Department of the Air Force. This is similar to how the Marine Corps operates as a Service in the Department of the Navy.

“The FY20 NDAA recognizes space as a warfighting domain and establishes the US Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the US Air Force,” says a summary of the report released by the committees.

The Space Force will be led by the Chief of Space Operations. This uniformed officer will become the eighth member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Two other Senate-confirmed leadership roles will also be created: The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.



The bill incorporates the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act, a policy priority for House Democrats that has so far failed to win approval as a standalone measure in the Senate. That provision would grant federal workers 12 weeks of paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child, or to handle family health emergencies.



The agreement authorizes a 3.1% pay increase for military members starting January 1, marking the largest pay increase for military members in ten years.

The legislation also tackles the issue of substandard privatized housing on military bases and will create a tenant’s bill of rights for service members living in on-base housing.



On the acquisition front, the bill supports policy changes to DOD procurement of software. It would create separate “pathways” for software acquisition and press the department to compress its initial software development timelines to a year or less under a continuous delivery model long-embraced by the private sector.

Too speed DOD’s embrace of cloud computing, the bill orders the creation of policies to migrate the military’s applications to the cloud.

It also incorporates the Accelerating Defense Innovation Act, which would allow companies to compete for Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contracts even when their ownership stakes are comprised mainly of venture capital investments.


What it doesn’t say

For now, the bill largely sidesteps border wall funding issues that had previously held up negotiations. The conference version of the bill scraps a House provision that would have prevented spending on the border wall but does not explicitly designate funds for the purpose. Border wall funding issues will be dealt with as part of 2020 appropriations bills now.

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