The Senate, late last night, passed the FY2014 Defense Authorization bill with broad bipartisan support, 84-15. The, bill, which had been worked out by House and Senate committee negotiators, passed the House last week. It now goes to the president, who is expected to sign it.
The bill authorizes $544.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program. The bill authorizes an additional $7.7 billion in mandatory spending and $80.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
The legislation authorizes funding to support the president’s request for a 1 percent military pay raise, but rejects proposed increases to TRICARE fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-pays.
The bill rejects some major administration savings proposals. 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 bill does support much of the administration’s budget request for major weapons programs, including 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 Bomber (LRS-B), and modernization of the C-130H aircraft for the Guard and Reserves.
The legislation authorizes 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.
Military Construction funding is cut by $644.8 million in the bill, including $555.2 million in reductions to incrementally-funded construction projects.
The legislation takes strong action against sexual assault in the military. It limits the authority to modify findings of a court-martial to specific sexual offenses, 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, legislation conditionally allows detainees to be transferred to other countries.
This final congressional action marks the 52nd consecutive time the defense authorization bill has been passed by the Congress.