The top Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders are both determined to reaching an agreement for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Nov. 22, even as major disagreements remain on the table.
HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) each confirmed to reporters on Nov. 19 that they expect a deal to be reached by Friday.
Smith noted that he does not expect the act to be signed by Friday, but they will reach “a deal in principle.”
“It’s not definite … but that is our plan and I believe that we will meet that expectation,” Smith said ahead of a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the “Big Four” authorizers – Smith and Inhofe, along with HASC Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
Inhofe confirmed the same goal to Defense Daily on Tuesday.
“It’s all over this week. It has to be this week,” he said, adding that more details will be clear once the meeting is over.
There are “a handful” of issues that have yet to find an agreement, Smith acknowledged, but said he saw a path forward for them to be resolved. He shared in a media engagement last week that the remaining “tough” issues included President Trump’s request for $8.6 billion in funding for a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Space Force proposal, and other issues such as whether to allow transgender troops to serve.
Regarding the border wall issue, “a big chunk of it” has become the responsibility of House and Senate leaders, Smith noted. He added that the White House has remained in talks and has been helpful up to this point in the negotiations. He would not say whether his preferred outcome – that the NDAA direct that funding for the border wall must be appropriated, to keep the White House from using existing military construction and drug interdiction funds – had been agreed to.
Smith said the conferees are still discussing other major sticking points but did not elaborate on details.
“I’m not going to get into specifics. … It’s not appropriate, I think, to discuss outcomes until I’ve talked to people about it, but overall, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to finish this week,” he said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday that he expects to see the NDAA come up for a floor vote “when we come back from the Thanksgiving break.”