Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Lawmakers Agree On Defense Bill Deal That Includes Significant Pay Increase For Troops
A key panel of House and Senate members on Wednesday announced a deal on a massive defense bill, pushing forward a nearly $700 billion plan to raise pay for servicemembers, increase the size of the military, fund new ships and aircrafts and authorize new spending on missile defense.
The negotiated defense budget for fiscal year 2018 includes a 2.4 percent pay increase for servicemembers, necessary retention pay and bonuses and covers costly repairs for two Navy ships involved recently in deadly crashes.
Congressional conference committee members who negotiated the deal lauded the defense bill, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA. It authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and national security programs through the Department of Energy.
“We are tremendously proud of this NDAA, which will strengthen our military, provide our troops a pay raise, bolster missile defense, drive innovation in military technology to secure our global advantage, and build on the defense reforms Congress has passed in recent years,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member on the Armed Services committee, and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Wednesday in a joint statement. “Most importantly, this legislation will help reverse the dangerous readiness crisis that is endangering the lives of our men and women in uniform.”
Though the plan has overcome several hurdles already, the move now sends the defense budget to a vote before both chambers and a new fight on how to fund the major increase in military spending.
The proposal surpasses the budget cap of $549 billion for defense spending and will require new congressional action to be enacted. Otherwise, the proposed budget could trigger automatic, across-the-board spending cuts.
The bill is comprised of a base budget of about $626 billion, with $66 billion in a warfighting account not subject to budget caps called the Overseas Contingency Operations fund and another $8 billion for other defense activities.
It also surpassed President Donald Trump’s defense funding request by $26 billion. Earlier this year, the administration proposed a defense budget of $668 billion, a 5 percent increase to last year’s spending plan. Last week, Trump asked to boost his original military funding request.
“We are also proud of the bipartisan process that led to this conference report, which took hard work and thoughtful collaboration from members on both sides of the aisle,” McCain, Reed and Thornberry said in their statement. “As this legislation moves toward final passage and to the president’s desk, we are confident it will continue the bipartisan tradition of supporting the brave men and women of our armed forces and enable them to rise to the challenges of our increasingly dangerous world.”
The budget also passed on some proposals, declining on a House plan for the creation of a Space Corps, a new military service that would be an arm of the Air Force.
The idea drew opposition along the way from several key figures, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Senate, in their opposition, went as far as including language in their bill prohibiting a Space Corps.
Now, under Wednesday’s deal, the bill directs a study of the matter. House members who were pushing the deal, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., called the move a positive first step.
“We are pleased the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018 takes the first step in fundamentally changing and improving the national security space programs of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force in particular,” Rogers, who is chairman of an Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, and the subcommittee’s ranking member Cooper said in a joint statement.
The defense budget also directs $26.2 billion for 14 new ships and $10.1 billion for the purchase of 90 Joint Strike Fighters, which is 20 more than the administration’s request. It directs another $5.9 billion for Virginia-class submarines, $5.6 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, $4.4 billion for aircraft carriers, $3.1 billion for Army helicopters and $1.9 billion for procuring 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets.
The plan also increases the military force by adding 7,500 soldiers to the Army and another 1,000 to the Marine Corps. It also increases the Army Reserve force by 500 and adds 500 to the Army National Guard.
The plan also authorizes $141.8 billion for military personnel, including the cost of pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits and change of station moves. It authorizes another $33.7 billion for the Defense Health Program and re-authorizes 30 types of bonuses and payments linked to recruiting.
It also streamlines the Pentagon administration and details a new No. 3 position that goes into effect at the Pentagon next year for a new chief management officer to direct business reforms. It also formalizes a first-time auditing process for the department and it directs the secretary of defense to address a backlog of 700,000 departmental security clearances.
The defense bill also directs for the funding of repairs to the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain. Both ships were badly damaged in separate, deadly crashes during the summer that left 17 sailors dead.
The overall boost in military funding request comes in the wake of a deadly year for the U.S. military when it comes to readiness and safety concerns.
McCain said during the bill’s previous debate on the Senate floor that 185 servicemembers have died in military accidents in the last three years.
“We are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat,” McCain said during the September debate.
In July, the House approved a $696 billion defense budget, while the Senate approved a nearly $700 billion plan in September.
Still, many of the efforts must overcome budget caps to move forward.
In September, Congress approved a temporary funding measure that gave Congress at least three months to approve a new overall spending plan for fiscal 2018, which started Oct. 1.
But that also meant a new military budget was on the clock: Congress has until December to come up with a deal to fund its $700 billion defense proposal or it might have to delay its spending plans again.
Congress has been here before. Former President Barack Obama signed the 2017 defense policy plan on Dec. 23, 2016. But faced with another round of delays, a $1.1 trillion omnibus government spending bill that included the defense budget wasn’t approved until May. Until then, military operations were kept afloat by a short-term funding bill — as is the case now.
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.