(May 13, 2014) The House Armed Services Committee hunkered down May 7 for a long day – and night – of debating the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
Shortly after midnight the following day, the committee passed its legislation, often called the HASC mark, which included a strong package of National Guard provisions. The measure now moves to the floor of the House, where it will soon be debated by the entire legislative body.
Many amendments passed through the committee without opposition, including a provision giving the chief of the National Guard Bureau authority to recommend directors and deputy directors of the Army and Air National Guard. Currently, directors are recommended by service chiefs. Also passed "en bloc" was a measure to codify the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) as a Guard mission under Title 32.
In another bout of good news for the Air Guard, the committee included funding for propulsion system upgrades and the avionics and modernization program for the Guard's fleet of C-130Hs . And, it delayed retirement of the A-10 for an additional year while calling for a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Air Force's close-air support platforms.
Joint operations got a boost with language expanding the role of Guard counter drug operations. It also protects and emphasizes the importance of the Guard counter-drug program's regional training centers. The mark also included $10 million for the Guard's signature State Partnership Program.
On the Army side, the bill calls for a GAO report examining the makeup of the Total Army, which would be due before the committee's markup next year. The legislation also keeps the Guard's end strength at 350,000 and stops planned preparations for transferring the Guard's Apaches into the active component.
The bill provides $363 million for Guard depot maintenance, combat training rotations, and procurement and modifications to UH-60 Black Hawks. And, it also requires the secretary of the Army to submit a plan detailing how the service will modernize the Guard's entire fleet of Black Hawks.
NGAUS has an analysis of the bill here. Last week's markup was the final one for Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., the committee chairman. McKeon is retiring later this year.