U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced today that the Committee had completed its mark-up of the annual defense bill and provided the following comment and update:
"Alabama's men and women in uniform remain among the nation's finest--in the greatest military the world has ever known. Their honorable service, courage under fire, and steadfast tenacity represent the highest ideals of our country and the state of Alabama.
The country owes these men and women a debt--and we must continue to provide them the resources, equipment, and support they need to keep our country safe and preserve our national interests.
I am happy to report that Alabama's contribution to our nation's security was maintained this week in the Senate Armed Services Committee's mark-up.
The sequestration spending reductions required by the Budget Control Act have fallen disproportionately on the Department of Defense. While Defense represents one-sixth of the federal budget, half of the cuts that are to be taken from our entire government would come from Defense.
I remain concerned, however, that the bill, in its present form does not fall within the new discretionary spending cap on defense. I don't think it will pass--or should pass--the full United States Senate until all federal agencies and departments tighten their belts to reduce spending and the federal debt. Secretary of Defense Hagel has committed to producing a plan to solve the sequestration shortfall.
The FY 2014 budget request for the Department of Defense comes to us at a very challenging time. With a diverse set of global threats and a continued domestic fiscal crisis, it is more important than ever that we work together to make sure our military has the capabilities and capacity to ensure the United States' positive leadership role in the world. The plain truth is that unless President Obama, our Commander in Chief, shows leadership to protect the Defense Department from disproportionate cuts, there is danger that the funding for this mark will be reduced.
Budget reductions must be made wisely and strategically, with the recognition that--unlike so much of what Washington does--defense is a core, constitutional function of government."
· The committee reported bill authorizes $625.1 billion for national defense in fiscal year 2014. This total includes:
· $526.6 billion for DOD base budget ($9 million less than the budget request);
· $87.0 billion for OCO ($18 million less than the budget request); and
· $17.8 billion for national security programs in the DOE ($16 million less than the budget request).
· The bill authorizes full funding for missile defense at $9.3 billion-- $150 million over the President's Budget request. This bodes well for related programs like the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, Patriot, and other theater missile defense programs and projects managed and designed by the Missile Defense Agency, Redstone Arsenal, and the Huntsville community.
· The committee also included $30 million to provide the Missile Defense Agency another ground-based sensor that will ensure a more capable defense against the increasing threat of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack from North Korea, Iran, or any other emerging belligerent nation.
· The committee requires the Secretary of Defense to report to the congressional defense and intelligence committees on the capability of each service to operate its weapons and communications systems in a hostile cyber environment. The report is required to provide an assessment of the cyber threats to major weapons and tactical communication systems that could emerge in the next five years; an assessment of the cyber vulnerabilities; a description of the current strategy to defend against battlefield cyber-attacks; and an estimate of the costs to correct the vulnerabilities in the future. This provision includes cyber-analysis of the space-based and high altitude weapons systems developed and maintained at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.
· Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) including the Army hypersonic weapon (AHW) that is managed by Redstone's Space and Missile Defense Command was recognized by the Committee for its valuable contributions to the nation's defense. The committee noted its support for the CPGS program and realizes that efforts in developing intermediate-range and long-range hypersonic boost-glide systems have the potential to provide significant military capability. The committee also requires the Department of Defense to report to the congressional defense committees on whether the CPGS should include maritime and ground surface versus sub-surface launched CPGS.
· Operationally Responsive Space (ORS): The Strategic Forces Subcommittee added $10 million to the President's Budget request for the nano and micro satellites and launch systems--providing new and lower cost access into space.
· Overall Army Depot maintenance was fully funded at $1.7 billion nationwide. Additionally, the committee added $732.2 million to the Army Operations and Maintenance fund to restore readiness cuts from Sequestration.
· The Committee's provision also fully supports the funding request of $592 mission for the Army's ground combat vehicle programs. This will help ensure that sufficient work is conducted by Anniston Army Depot, taking advantage of the expert maintenance workforce employed there.
· The Committee fully supported the budget request of $374.1 million to convert flat-bottom Stryker to more survivable double-V configuration.
· The Committee also fully supported the budget request for Paladin Integrated Management Program (PIM) at $340 million.
· The Committee also authorized $116.3 million for the Armored Multi-purpose Vehicle (AMPV), fully supporting the DOD budget request.
· In an age increasingly plagued by cyber threats, the Senate Armed Services Committee recognized the critical importance of DOD software assurance efforts. As a result, the Committee has required DOD to establish a joint software assurance center to serve as a resource for securing the software acquired, developed, maintained, and used in DOD. The Application Software Assurance Center of Excellence at Maxwell Air Force Base's Gunter Annex is a worthy candidate to become DOD's joint software assurance center.
· The Committee's mark-up also restores funding for the DOD STARBASE Academies. DoD STARBASE focuses on elementary students, primarily fifth graders. The goal is to motivate them to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as they continue their education.
· The Committee also requires the Secretary of the Air Force to report on the requirement and allocation of aircraft for the Civil Air Patrol. The Civil Air Patrol flies more than 85 percent of all federal inland search-and-rescue missions directed by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fl. The Civil Air Patrol's Administrative Headquarters is at Maxwell Air Force Base.
· The bill also requires the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to submit a report on the effects of transferring the Eagle Vision program from the Air National Guard to other organizations. Eagle Vision is a military based commercial satellite imagery capability that supports various military operations and exercises by providing unclassified imagery collected from commercial satellite vendors. The program is part of a larger enterprise that consists of units stationed in South Carolina, Alabama, California, and Hawaii.
WIREGRASS / FT. RUCKER
· The defense bill fully funds the Defense Department's budget request of $96.2 million for UH-72 Light Utility Helicopter.
· The Committee also directs the Army to provide a risk assessment of the impact of the product termination of the UH-72 industrial base.
· The Committee's fully supports the Defense budget requests of $1.2 billion for UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, $1.1 billion for CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and $759.4 million for AH-64 Apache Block III helicopters.
· The Committee also directs the Army to provide a report on the results of the light armed helicopter voluntary flight demonstration.
· Earlier this year, the Secretary of the Navy was very clear: the Navy remains committed to building 52 Littoral Combat Ships. In mark-up, the Senate Armed Services Committee agreed LCS will play a huge role in the future of our Navy. This bill fully supports both the LCS and the Joint High Speed Vessel programs as requested in the Defense Department's budget request.
· Littoral Combat Ship was funded at $1.79 billion.
· Joint High Speed Vessel was funded at $2.7 million.
· The Committee also requires the Navy to report on the Navy's: (1) intent for allocating JHSVs among the combatant commands; (2) any overseas basing plan to further support allocation. The Navy will also report on additional functions or capabilities the JHSV fleet might provide.
· An effort to withhold funding for the purchase of next block buy of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) was turned away by the committee citing the fact the previous dual award of the USS Freedom variant (Lockheed Martin) and the USS Independence variant (Austal USA) saved approximately $1 billion in projected procurement costs. That was enough savings to purchase an additional LCS. The Fiscal Year 2014 cost per hull of $343 million is well below the congressional spending cap. The committee did require the Government Accountability Office to answer key management and operational questions concerning LCS before the next block buy of the ship. This issue could arise again when the NDAA is considered before the full Senate.
ALABAMA MILITARY CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
· The committee authorized $4 million for military construction for the Army National Guard in Decatur.
· The committee authorized $8.5 million for military construction for the Air National Guard in Birmingham.
· Authorizes a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services.
· Does not include DOD proposals to establish or increase health care fees, deductibles, and copayments that would primarily affect working-age military retirees and their families.
· Amends Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to limit the authority of a convening authority to modify the findings of a court-martial to specified sexual offenses.
· Requires automatic higher-level review of any decision by a commander not to prosecute a sexual assault allegation, with the review going all the way to the service secretary in any case in which the commander disagrees with the military lawyer's recommendation to prosecute.
· Makes retaliation against service members for reporting criminal offenses more explicitly a punishable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
· Declines to authorize a new Base Realignment and Closure round in 2015.
· Requires the armed forces to accommodate individual expressions of religious beliefs unless such expressions could adversely impact military readiness, unit cohesion, or good order and discipline.
The Committee's mark-up reflects the first major step in the annual authorization process for the Department of Defense. The NDAA must next be considered by the full Senate and then conferenced with the House of Representatives. The mark-up by the Senate Armed Services Committee is the first step in this important bill becoming a law.