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Thornberry on FY21 NDAA

WASHINGTON- Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 released by Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA). 

“For sixty years, under Republican and Democrat majorities, and working with Presidents of both parties, Congress has met its Constitutional obligation to protect the country by passing a Defense Authorization Act. No other piece of legislation has the same track record. We didn’t get here by accident. Instead, year after year and decade after decade, Members kept in mind that this bill is about our troops, not about our politics. 

“The Chairman’s mark is not the bill I would have written, but on the whole, it is one I agree with and can support. It is the product of the House Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan process and reflects priorities raised by of all of the Committee’s members. 

“Over the last decade, nothing has been more corrosive to our military competitive edge than late and inadequate funding. America’s military is transforming to meet the challenges of great power competition while simultaneously shouldering unanticipated missions like pandemic response. All of this is putting enormous pressure on the force. Congress should not add budget uncertainty or wasteful CRs to the list of challenges our troops face. Nothing in this bill or its Senate companion is so controversial that we cannot come to an agreement before the end of the Fiscal Year.”

Items in the Chairman’s Mark Worthy of Support:

Resources: The Chairman’s Mark adheres to last year’s bipartisan budget agreement and fully funds the President’s budget request. That includes $740.5B total for National Defense Discretionary programs, including $130.6B for procurement of advanced weapons systems, an increase of $1.9B over the President’s request, and $106.2B for Research Development Test and Evaluation, an increase of $475.5M over the President’s request.

Supporting Our Troops and their Families: The Chairman’s Mark supports the pay and benefits our troops and their families need, deserve, and have earned. This includes supporting a 3% pay raise. Importantly, the Chairman’s Mark includes most of the Military Family Readiness Act introduced by Ranking Member Thornberry and Congressman Kelly. 

Continues Vital Pentagon Reform: The Chairman’s Mark continues to reform how the Pentagon does business and adopts many of the proposals Ranking Member Thornberry introduced earlier this year.  These include reforming the requirements process, making improvements to the sustainment process to reduce overall life cycle costs, and instituting quarterly briefings on industrial base vulnerabilities. Importantly, the Chairman’s mark also takes the first step in transferring defense acquisition statutes within Title X, opening the door to completing this important effort in Conference. 

Nuclear Modernization: The Chairman’s Mark fully funds vital nuclear modernization programs to ensure that our nuclear deterrent–the cornerstone of America’s defense–is safe and reliable. It fully funds the B-21, a Columbia Class submarine along with an additional attack submarine, and begins work on the W93 warhead that will be critical to meet STRATCOM Commander requirements for the sea-based deterrent.

Indo-Pacific Security: The Chairman’s Mark lays the foundation for an Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative, modeled on the European Deterrence Initiative, and similar to the one Rep. Thornberry introduced this year. The Chairman’s Mark includes an Initiative that supports the same objectives of optimizing U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing the prepositioning of equipment, strengthening bilateral and multilateral exercises and training, and building ally and partner capacity, with not less than $3.5B of base funding being allocated to the Initiative for FY21.

COVID-19 Response: The Chairman’s Mark includes several provisions addressing the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the Department of Defense has the diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities, and personal protective equipment necessary to protect our Armed Forces. It also requires the National Security Strategy to address the provision of drugs, biologics, vaccines, and other critical medical equipment to ensure combat readiness and force health protection. 

Increased Investments in Science and Technology: The Chairman’s Mark includes almost $600 million above the President’s Budget Request for science and technology and investments in critical emerging technology areas including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and biotechnology. 

Items of Concern:

Supporting Our Partners: The Chairman’s Mark reduces funding levels for support of partners in Afghanistan and Iraq, including reducing Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) by $500M (from PB of $4B to $3.5B), and the Iraq Counterterrorism Train & Equip (CTEF) by $145M (from PB of $645M to $500M). 

GTMO: The Chairman’s Mark does not include traditional prohibitions against transferring GTMO detainees to the United States, building new detention facilities in the United States, or the closure of Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay.

Increased Reports: The Chairman’s Mark adds a significant number of new reporting requirements to the Department, imposing a substantial burden without an obvious oversight benefit. 

Items Not Within HASC Jurisdiction: The Chairman’s Mark includes provisions that are not within the Committee’s jurisdiction and that carry mandatory spending implications. These include expanding paid parental leave to some non-DOD agencies and changes to General Service pay rates. 

Training Ranges: The Chairman’s Mark does not include DoD’s request to expand the existing range for the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) and the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC). US forces need more space for realistic training. Failure to expand the existing ranges will significantly debilitate Air Force and Navy capabilities, as the space needed to adequately train for high end operations will be unavailable.

Amendments the Ranking Member May Offer or Support

DOD Reform: The Chairman’s Mark does not include some of Rep. Thornberry’s reform proposals, including funding limitations to enforce reforms already enacted by Congress.

Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative: While the Chairman’s Mark makes a start at establishing IPDI, several important elements that would resource and strengthen ally and partner engagement were not included. Rep. Thornberry believes the inclusion of authorities and investments to build multilateral partnership capacity is critical to the security in the region and will propose amendments at markup focused on specific authorities and investments needed to strengthen greater cooperation with allies and partners.

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