The House and Senate have now passed their FY2020 National Defense Authorization Acts, and Congress will soon establish a Conference Committee to help resolve differences between each chamber’s version.
As conferees are soon to be named, Heritage Action urges the Conference Committee to drop several partisan provisions baked into the House version. While the bipartisan Senate version, S. 1790, received 88 votes, the House’s bill included numerous partisan “poison pills” and did not earn a single Republican vote. The narrow voting margins in the House represent a fissure in the traditional broad bipartisan support that the NDAA normally receives. We urge the following changes to the bill as Congress moves forward in order to authorize funding for our military and protect our nation:
1. Topline: Adopt the Senate’s topline authorization of $746.4 billion, which ultimately puts the U.S. at 4.2 percent growth, instead of the House topline of $733 billion, which only equals 2.3 percent growth. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis recommended sustained three to five percent growth above inflation to help provide our armed forces with the resources they need, as outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. If possible, the Committee should push for the President’s full budget request of a $750 billion topline.
2. General Transfer Authority: House language that reduces the Department of Defense’s general transfer authority should be stripped. The Senate’s general transfer authority of $4 billion allows the Pentagon to be financially flexible while it manages a massive budget.
3. Southern Border: The House version prohibits any new Department of Defense funds for the construction of a wall, fence, or physical barrier at our overcrowded southern border. This language must be stripped as we confront a steadily worsening humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, House language that would prohibit Defense Department facilities, equipment, and personnel from being used to build housing for foreign nationals in ICE custody should be removed from the bill.
4. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Language: Conferees should strip language contained in the House version of the bill, that adds sexual orientation and gender identity qualifications for service eligibility. This language is a partisan attempt to reverse the current administration’s policy which would adversely affect the readiness of military personnel to deploy and use taxpayer dollars effectively.
5. Presidential War Powers: Conferees should defer to the Senate and strike House-approved language that restricts or rescinds the President’s Article II war powers against state sponsors of terrorism like Iran. Such language would handcuff the President in dealing with potential threats and restrict our military from defending itself in dangerous war zones.
6. Space Force: While both versions contain language that would create a Space Force as a part of the Department of the Air Force, the Senate language is stronger and adds a second four-star billet for the Vice Commander.
7. Low-Yield Nuclear Weapon Funding: Conferees should strike the House’s language prohibiting the use of funds to deploy low-yield ballistic missile warheads, a key measure for the development and protection of our nuclear arsenal.
8. Burdensome Environmental Regulations: The House version contains expanded and expensive language for environmental mitigation purposes, severely distracting from the Department of Defense’s primary mission of protecting the nation from harm.
9. Guantanamo Bay Detainment: The House version contains language that would prohibit new detainee transfers to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp while providing for transfers of foreign terrorists to U.S. soil, putting dangerous war criminals closer to U.S. law-abiding civilians. Conferees should strip this nefarious provision.
10. Readiness: Conferees should work to restore both the $1.2 billion in military personnel cuts and $6.9 billion reduction in OCO funds contained in the House version.
11. European Defense Initiative: Both chambers’ versions contain language that would require the Department of Defense to provide Congress with a future plan and updated direction for the European Deterrence Initiative. This language must be protected in order to sustain American forward presence in Europe.
12. F-15EX Procurement: Although the Senate’s version authorized the President’s requested purchase of eight F-15EXs, Conferees should block this purchase and focus procurement investments elsewhere on new generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.