The Senate passed the final FY2017 Defense Authorization bill yesterday with broad bipartisan support, 92-7. The bill, which had been worked out by House and Senate committee negotiators, overwhelmingly passed the House (375-34) last week.
The bill authorizes force levels, programs, and policies (including military pay raises) for Department of Defense (DoD) budgets and the programs and policies for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program. Appropriations bills provide actual funding.
House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said the bill “focuses on our troops, America’s most important national defense resource. It provides them a full pay raise for the first time in four years, it stops layoffs of our military personnel and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces.”
The compromise bill authorizes a total of $619 billion, including $532 billion for the FY2017 DoD base budget and $19 billion for in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program. The bill authorizes an additional $8 billion in mandatory spending and about $60 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
The legislation authorizes funding to support a 2.1 percent military pay raise, higher than the 1.6 percent raise proposed by the president. The bill does not make any changes to out-of-pocket expenses by servicemembers or military retirees and makes no changes to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).
The bill provides two TRICARE options—managed care option and no-referral network option—for servicemembers (and families) and retires, and extends the hours for care at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) primary care clinics.
The bill does not require women to register for the draft, but directs the preparation of a study of the utility of the Selective Service.
The bill rejects the administration’s plan to draw down troop levels and adds 16,000 Army end strength and 3,000 Marine Corps end strength in 2017.
The conference committee also rejects an administration proposal for another Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) round.
The bill includes major reforms of the Department of Defense (DoD) organization. The role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as the principal, independent military advisor to the president is preserved and the roles of the Combatant Commanders are clarified. The size of the National Security Council (NSC) staff is capped at 200 under the bill.
In addition, the bill replaces the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (AT&L) with an Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (R&E) and an Under Secretary of Defense of Management and Support and creates a new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Policy and Oversight to set defense-wide acquisition and industrial base policy.
The bill now goes to the president for signature. The president had earlier threatened to veto the bill, but the White House has given no indication of the president’s intent now that the bill has passed.