Thornberry on the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act

Dec 3, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON- Rep. Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on the National Defense Authorization Act for FY21.  A summary of highlights of the bill can be downloaded here and is included at the link below:

“Next week, Members will have an opportunity to vote to pass the NDAA for the 60th year in a row. This is an important milestone because it means that Congress’s decades long track-record of setting the needs of our troops and our security above partisan agenda endures- even in trying times. It sends a clear signal to our troops that we support them, their families, and their mission- that we have their back. It also sends an unmistakable message to our adversaries; America is united behind a military that is engaged with the world, that supports our allies, and will resolutely defend our interests and freedoms. Those are messages we cannot send often enough.

“This is not the exact bill that I would have written, but it is one I support wholeheartedly. It provides the resources our troops need to accomplish their mission, significantly increases support for military families- especially those with special needs, continues to reform the Pentagon to make it more agile and cost effective, and includes measures to meaningly deter Russia and China while maintaining America’s competitive edge. I encourage my colleagues to support it.”

FY21 NDAA: Advancing America’s Security
Critical National Security Measures Included In The NDAA

COVID-19 Protections: The NDAA ensures service members have the diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities and PPE they need, along with providing medical surge capacity in certain healthcare facilities; and it provides health benefits to members of the National Guard that supported the COVID-19 response.

Hazardous Duty Pay: The NDAA includes the annual re-authorization of the extra pay owed to troops deployed in combat zones. 

Safe and Reliable Nuclear Deterrent: The NDAA authorizes DoD nuclear weapons modernization programs and National Nuclear Security Administration infrastructure and weapons programs absolutely required to replace aging systems with diminishing reliability and survivability concerns that undermine the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s most important Defense capability – the Nuclear Deterrent. The NDAA also directs the production of an unclassified study of the nuclear weapons programs of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, so that the American people can be informed about the threats to the United States.

Deterring Russia: The NDAA prohibits future administrations from implementing any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of Russia over Crimea and extends the limitation on military cooperation between the United States and Russia. The NDAA establishes mandatory sanctions on Turkey for its acquisition of the S-400 air missile defense system as required by CAATSA, and expands sanctions related to the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Cybersecurity: The NDAA adopts 17 Cyber Solarium Commission recommendations that strengthen the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and empowers the government to better protect against cyber-attack.

Fighting Terrorists: The NDAA contains multiple authorities to train and equip partners, including Afghan, Iraqi, and other forces. By building their capabilities to fight terrorism and provide their own security, we reduce the need to commit US forces. In response to the attack in Pensacola in December 2019, where a foreign student killed three people, the NDAA requires a more thorough process for vetting foreign students’ access to military bases and prohibits foreign students’ possession of firearms on military bases. The NDAA carries traditional prohibitions against future Presidents ordering the transfer of terrorist detainees currently held at GTMO to the United States and includes special visas for Afghan partners who put their lives on the line supporting US troops. 

Maintaining America’s Competitive Edge: The NDAA includes a number of measures to maintain America’s competitive edge against our adversaries, including:

  • Planned and urgently needed increases to the Army, Navy and Air Force end-strength;
  • $8 billion for new military construction that must be appropriated and authorized to get underway;
  • Affirms the premiere military aviation ranges at El Centro Range Complex, Fallon Range Training Complex, and Nevada Test and Training Range;
  • Limits the retirements of Air Force manned and unmanned ISR aircraft;
  • Limits the retirements of tanker, airlift, and A-10 attack aircraft; 
  • Includes funding for a total of 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters; 
  • Provides additional $2.55 billion for an additional Virginia-class attack submarine and $260.0 million for a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport vessel;
  • Provides additional $500.0 million for a new large deck amphibious ship to numerically replace the fire-stricken USS Bonhomme Richard and authorizes a multiyear amphibious ship contract that Navy anticipates would save almost $1.0 billion;
  • Accelerates anti-submarine warfare to counter advanced undersea threats by authorizing an additional $1.42 billion for 8 additional P-8A Poseidon aircraft and $49.1 million for additional sonobuoys;
  • Expands Navy logistics and Special Forces access by authorizing an additional $417.0 million to support 4 additional V-22 Osprey; 
  • Supports the budget requests for 12 F-15EX aircraft and 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, to include additional $28.0 million for Super Hornet advance procurement; 
  • Supports the budget requests for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift efforts to include Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft; and 
  • Provides additional $375.0 million for an additional 60 Stryker Combat Vehicles to address an identified Army unfunded requirement.  

Reforming How the Pentagon Does Business: The NDAA expands reform efforts across the DOD to include the efficacy and efficiency of the Department as a whole as well as reforming the capability requirements process and weapon system sustainment activities. The NDAA establishes a new requirement for quarterly briefings on eliminating the gaps and vulnerabilities in the National Technology and Industrial Base.

Ensuring Innovation: The NDAA authorizes an additional $350 million in defense science and technology efforts to invest in emerging technologies and critical research areas including biotechnology, AI, hypersonics, and directed energy. It formalizes the “Hacking For Defense” program, and restores $40 million in funding for the program.

Artificial Intelligence: The NDAA elevates the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center as a direct report to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and adopts many National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Commission recommendations that accelerate the DoD’s adoption of AI-enabled capabilities.

Support For Troops And Their Families

Support for Military Families: The NDAA includes a number of reform efforts prioritized by Ranking Members Thornberry (R-TX) and Kelly (R-MS) to better support military families. These include efforts to address the childcare shortage for military families, reforms to programs that support military families with children with special needs, and improved voting access and support for overseas servicemembers and families. 

Improvements to Military Family Housing: Overdue improvements include improved identification and remediation of severe environmental hazards, support for families displaced for mold and other hazards, and liaisons for families with special needs children. 

Mental Healthcare: In light of high rates of military suicide, the NDAA initiates mental healthcare reforms for service-members, family members and retirees and seeks to improve the effectiveness of suicide prevention programs in the Department of Defense. 

Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment: Sexual assault and harassment continue to be a persistent issue in the military. The NDAA includes additional reforms designed to improve reporting, improve and protect the rights of victims, and provide for more effective responses for sex-related offenses.

Additional National Security Tools From Beyond The Armed Services Committees

Solidarity with Israel: The NDAA includes the United States-Israel Assistance Act.

National Emergency Alert Systems: The NDAA includes AMBER Alert nationwide Act, expanding the AMBER Alert system to include airports, maritime ports, border crossing areas and points of entry, and the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act, modifying how citizens receive emergency alerts.  

Keeping Faith With Our Veterans: The NDAA expands eligibility for the HUD-VA Housing Assistance Program to include veterans who were previously excluded. The NDAA also expands the ability for the VA to provide legal assistance for veterans and dependents, and healthcare via telemedicine- a vital resource for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting Federal Civilian Employees: The NDAA will allow federal employees to carry over leave unused due to COVID-19. It also extends paid parental leave to the TSA and FAA.

Combats Money Laundering and Human Trafficking: The NDAA contains efforts to improve U.S. coordination and information sharing to combat international human trafficking and reauthorizes a stronger, survivor-led, U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. The NDAA also strengthens tools to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorist programs. 

New Tools To Deter China in the NDAA

Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI): The NDAA builds on the success of the European Deterrence Initiative and establishes the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, an effort championed by Ranking Member Thornberry, which includes $2.2 billion of investments and new programs to modernize and strengthen U.S. posture and capability in the Indo-Pacific region and assist U.S. allies and partners to deter against Chinese malign behavior.

Protects Against Chinese Industrial Espionage: The NDAA includes a requirement for a Presidential assessment on how to deter Chinese industrial espionage and large-scale cyber theft of intellectual property and personal information.  

Transparency for Chinese Military Companies: The NDAA requires public reporting of Chinese military companies operating in the United States and for that list to be published on the Federal Register.

Defending Hong Kong: The NDAA prohibits the commercial exports of covered defense articles and services and covered munitions items to the Hong Kong Police.

Supporting Taiwan: The NDAA supports U.S. efforts to help Taiwan develop capable, ready, and modern defense forces necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and requires annual reports on the progress DoD is making to deny the strategic goals of a competitor against a defense partner. Cutting Off World Bank Aid: The NDAA pursues China’s graduation from World Bank assistance.

Debt Diplomacy: The NDAA includes efforts to ensure that US representatives at international financial institutions work to seek greater transparency into the terms and conditions of financing provided by the People’s Republic of China. 

Protecting America’s Supply Chain: The NDAA carries protections on the defense industrial base and supply chain, including:

  • Expanding the prohibition for DoD on acquiring certain sensitive materials from China
  • Prohibiting DoD from acquiring certain printed circuit boards from China
  • Requiring the National Security Strategy to include the provision of drugs, biologics, vaccines, and critical medical equipment (including PPE). Also requires a report on the vulnerabilities to the medicine supply chain of the United States from foreign nations like China.

Protecting Critical Research: The NDAA carries protections for federal investments in science and technology and critical defense technologies from foreign adversaries, including:

  • Requiring Universities share information related to individuals participating in defense funded research
  • Limiting funding for Universities with Confucius Institutes
  • Requiring the disclosure of external funding for federal grants recipients.

Protecting U.S. Bases: The NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress of steps being taken by host countries with an at-risk 5G network, services, or software to include Huawei and ZTE, before DoD can base new weapons systems or forces in said host country.