Leaders of the House and Senate defense authorization committees announced they have agreed on a FY2014 Defense Authorization bill.
“This is a bipartisan bill that meets our obligations to out men and women in uniform and their families and includes important reforms and authorities for the Department of Defense,” said Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) echoed these sentiments in his press release.
The bill provides $544.4 billion in discretionary budget authorityfor the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Energy (DoE) funding for the nuclear weapons program. The bill also authorizes $80.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) in FY2014.
The bill authorizes funding to support the president’s request for a 1 percent military pay raise, but rejects the administration’s proposed increases to TRICARE fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-pays.
In a move to mitigate the adverse effects on readiness resulting from sequestration, the bill adds $2.2 billion to Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts “address readiness problems caused by sequestration.” The bill also adds $1.1 billion to Army reset funding.
The agreement rejects some administration savings proposals to meet constrained funding levels or to reapply to other higher priority programs. The bill prohibits DoD from planning or initiating another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, rejects the Navy’s plan to retire seven cruisers and two amphibious ships, and prevents the retirement of Global Hawk block 30 unmanned aircraft.
The committee does support much of the administration’s budget request for major weapons programs. The bill supports funding for continued development of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle, multiyear procurement of the E-2D Hawkeye and C-130J Super Hercules. The bill also supports funding to continue development of the KC-46A Tanker, the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), and modernization of the C-130H aircraft for the Guard and Reserves.
The agreement includes additional funding for National Guard and Reserve equipment, supports advance procurement for the F/A-18E/F aircraft, and funds the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle and the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper. The bill also increases the cost cap on the new Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier (CVN-78) from $11.8 billion to $12.9 billion and excludes “unforeseen” shipboard testing cost increases from the cost cap.
The bill cuts Military Construction by $644.8 million, including $555.2 million in reductions to incrementally-funded construction projects.
The agreement sets a $625,000 limit (from the current $763,000) on allowable reimbursement for contractor executive salary. Future adjustments in the baseline would be made using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ economic cost index.
Regarding sexual assault in the military, the bill limits the authority to modify findings of a court-martial to specific sexual offenses, require automatic sets minimum sentencing guidelines for servicemembers found guilty of sexual assault, and prohibits retaliation against servicemembers for reporting criminal offenses. The bill also requires each service to provide legal counsel to victims of sexual assault and eliminates the five-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault.
The bill continues current prohibitions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States for any purpose and the construction or modification of facilities in the US to house Guantanamo detainees. But, the bill conditionally allows detainees to be transferred to other countries.
The defense authorization committee leadership want to fast track action floor on the bill so that it can go to the president to be signed before the end of the year.
The house is expected to vote on the bill this week before it adjourns on Friday. The Senate leaders want to take up the bill next week before adjourning, although there is some resistance from Republican Senators who want to amend the bill.
If both chambers approve the bill, it would mark the 52nd consecutive time the defense authorization bill was passed by the Congress.