Defense Bill Passes Conference Committee, ANG Cuts Thwarted

This week, House and Senate Armed Services Committee panels agreed to a $633.3 billion defense authorization bill, after a weeklong conference committee to resolve contentious policy divisions. The final authorization bill is expected to go to the House floor later this afternoon and considered by the Senate shortly thereafter. The bill typically passes both chambers with wide bipartisan support and should reach the president’s desk by Friday.

The conference bill includes several provisions that affect the Army and Air National Guard.  Conference maintained Senate language calling for the establishment of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.

The Commission is a significant win in light of the proposed cuts to the Air National Guard this year by the Air Force. Though it no longer contains language that would freeze all Air National Guard structure until the Commission completes its findings, it does provide an independent and comprehensive look at how the Air Force justifies its budgetary decisions.  The nonbinding recommendations by the Commission must be submitted to Congress by February 1, 2014.

It remains unclear how the Air Force will move forward in light of the language in the defense authorization bill. While the bill preserves C-130, C-5 and C-27 aircraft, the language allows the Air Force to choose how it will allocate these resources. Additionally, because the NDAA no longer contains money authorized to finance a congressional freeze, A-10 and F-16 retirements are wholly dependent on the Air Force’s decisions.

Despite NGAUS efforts, the defense authorization bill does not contain language addressing a moratorium on the C-23 Sherpa. NGAUS will continue to pursue other avenues to preserve this program.

Contained in the defense authorization bill are the following authorizations:

End Strength
  • ARNG: 358,200
  • ANG: 105,700
Operations & Maintenance
  • ARNG: $7,158,012,000
  • ARNG OCO: $382,448,000
  • ANG: $5,975,966,000
  • ANG OCO: $19,975,000
Military Construction
  •  ARNG MilCon: $613,799,000
  •  ANG MilCon: $42,386,000
Other Guard-related issues addressed:
  • Multi-year procurement authority for Army CH-47F helicopters, which will include the ARNG (Sec. 111)
  • Availability of Transition Assistance Advisors to assist Guardsmen who serve on active duty for more than 180 consecutive days (Sec. 513)
  • Establishment of basic allowance for housing rates for members performing Active Guard and Reserve duty (Sec. 604)
  • Payment of benefit for nonparticipation of eligible members in Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence program due to government error (Sec. 605)
  • Authority for a comprehensive program for space-available travel on DoD aircraft, to include Guard members, retirees, their dependents and certain widows (Sec. 622)

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