Defense Season Kicks Off: House Armed Services Passes Defense Bill

A little after midnight, the House Armed Services committee (HASC) unanimously passed its version of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This marks the 53rd consecutive year this piece of legislation has passed the defense committee, authorizing $521.3 billion dollars in national defense and an additional $79.4 billion for overseas contingency operations.

This year’s HASC passed NDAA kicks off a strong package of legislative provisions for the National Guard, not to mention one of the more successful years for the NGAUS legislative team. Of the 16 authorization focused legislative proposals NGAUS requested this year, 11 of those were accepted in some form by the committee.

Top Highlights

Air National Guard

  • Prohibits the retirement of the A-10 for an additional year and requires a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report evaluating Air Force platforms used for close air support.
  • Includes funding for C-130H Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and propulsion system upgrades. Report language highlights that the Air Force has not put forward “plans to modernize or upgrade the C-130 propulsion system… [nor] a coherent plan for fleet- wide recapitalization of the C-130H fleet or explained how the Air Force plans to maintain medium-sized intra-theater airlift capacity and capability.” The bill also limits funding for the secretary of the Air Force until prior year AMP funding is obligated.
  • Codifies the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) mission under Title 32 and ensures survivor benefits are made equal to those under Title 10. The bill also includes additional directive report language on MAFFS and prohibits the Air Force from moving aircraft at MAFFS units.
  • Includes directive reporting language on the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force recommendations which requires assessment of all 42 recommendations in consultation with the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
  • Includes directive report language which requires the secretary of the Air Force to provide a report that describes the plan for capability upgrades to the F-16 fleet, risks of not upgrading F-16 with Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES), and the effect of cancellation of CAPES on the Air National Guard’s F-16 fleet.

Army National Guard

  • Freezes end strength for the active-component Army and Guard at 490,000 and 350,000 respectively. In addition, it would prohibit Apache transfers for all of fiscal 2015. The original bill, H.R. 3930, would have frozen transfer of all aircraft from the National Guard to the Army.  Additionally, the bill calls for a GAO report due at the beginning of March 2015, in time for the committee to consider the objective information for the fiscal 2016 NDAA.
  • Provides $363 million additional dollars for National Guard combat training rotations, depot maintenance, and procurement and modifications to the UH-60s. This would be paid for by reducing resources for the Uranium Enrichment Deactivation & Decommissioning fund from the Energy Department.
  • Requires the secretary of the Army to submit a plan to modernize the National Guard’s fleet of Black Hawks.
  • Includes directive report language which requires the secretary of the Army to submit a report on the combat vehicle industrial base. The report should include Army plans and funding profiles necessary to procure new or improved transmissions for AMPV, PIM, M88 and Abrams and Bradley ECP programs.

Joint/Personnel

  • Allows the chief of the National Guard Bureau to appoint, in consultation with the secretaries of the Army and Air Force, the general officers who will serve as directors and deputy directors of the Army and Air National Guard.
  • Includes a $10 million increase to the State Partnership Program.
  • Broadens the definition of National Guard Counter-drug Program operations to better align with the Defense Department Counternarcotics and Global Threats Strategy and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and protects the program's regional training centers.
  • Includes a comptroller general review of U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) and Army National Guard (ARNG) non-availability for mobilization -  directs the comptroller general to conduct a review of USAR and ARNG force readiness and submit a report to Congress no later than April 1, 2015.
  • Directs the Defense Department to submit a proposal to reduce the duty status of the reserve components to no more than eight pay statuses in order to create a more interoperable Air Force.

The HASC passed bill marks the start of the defense legislative season. NGAUS legislative staff will continue to ensure critical National Guard priorities are included in the Senate NDAA as well as House and Senate Defense Appropriations bills.

For additional information as well as funding levels, stay tuned to the NGAUS website for our full analysis.

 Also check out the House Armed Services website for text of the bill.

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