The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) approved the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill on a vote of 60-2. The HASC bill authorizes $515 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program.  The authorized amount for the base DoD budget would be $495.6 billion.

The bill also authorizes $89 billion for FY2016 Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The president requested $50.9 billion for OCO. The additional $38.3 billion in the HASC bill is for O&M requirements requested in the base bill.

Including base funding in the OCO account, which is considered emergency and not counted against the budget caps, allows the HASC to authorize $585 billion ($496 billion in base funds and $89 billion in OCO) for DoD in FY2016. This is essentially the same as the president’s request for total DoD funding ($534 billion in base funding and $51 billion in OCO). This approach keeps the HASC bill within the Budget Control Act (BCA) discretionary caps while providing additional funding for DoD. The president’s base budget request assumes an increase in the BCA discretionary caps to avoid sequestration.

HASC chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry highlighted the major components of the bill as: major steps to reform military compensation; first elements of long-term acquisition reform; and redistribution of resources to balance tooth to tail. “At a time of unprecedented threats, uncertainty, and technological change, the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] strives to ensure that our forces are agile, efficient, ready, and lethal,” Thornberry said.

The bill includes a recommendation from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission that called for a “blended” military retirement system. Under the bill, new service members would be automatically enrolled in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) with a matching contribution from DoD starting in FY2018. The servicemember’s contribution (3 percent initially) would be matched by a 1 percent contribution by DoD (that could go up to 5 percent). This change would provide retirement benefits to 83 percent of servicemembers currently not eligible, according to the committee. The provision would also mean that retirees after 20 years of service who are enrolled in the new system would have their annuity adjusted to reflect TSP payments. Current servicemembers would have the option to remain in the old system or choose the new TSP option.

The HASC bill also includes the first components of a plan to reform defense acquisition. The bill calls for streamlining the acquisition process by moving some decisions forward to the initial stages of the process. The number of legal certifications would be reduced and acquisition program managers would be given greater flexibility to address programmatic risk under the bill. The HASC would empower acquisition officials by removing barriers so that officers can pursue acquisition as a profession, provide a “Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund,” and include expedited hiring authority for hiring and training the acquisition workforce. Chairman Thornberry introduced the plan “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge” last month.

The HASC would provide military personnel with a 2.3 percent pay raise by not explicitly setting a pay raise amount in the bill. This non-action, would allow the current pay raise calculation procedures to go into effect, unless the president recommends an alternative. The president requested a 1.3 percent military pay raise for FY2016.

The bill rejects administration proposals to increase commissary prices to pay for operating costs, raise TRICARE fees, and lower the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The bill also denies the administration’s proposal to retire the A-10 attack jet fleet and rejects a proposal to initiate another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.

The HASC bill also adds funding for 12 more F/A 18-F Hornet aircraft for the Navy (+$1.2 billion) and 6 more F-35B aircraft for the Marine Corps (+$1 billion), which were identified as unfunded priorities. The bill also as provides $683 million to keep the A-10s flying, $400 million to restore proposed BAH cuts, and $322 million to restore proposed commissary cuts. Major funding reductions in the bill were made for unobligated balances (-$2.6 billion), fuel prices (-$1.6 billion) and the foreign currency account due to a strong dollar (-$1.4 billion).

The full House is expected to take up the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill before the Memorial Day recess.