The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee unanimously approved to send its mark for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to full committee June 4, with no amendments.
Both Subcommittee Chair Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) praised the mark Tuesday as a bipartisan effort that supports the Defense Department’s FY ’20 budget request while increasing oversight for the programs included in the subcommittee’s portfolio.
“We all know that our forces need the finest equipment possible,” Norcross said in opening remarks. “But the delivery of new capabilities on-cost and on-schedule does not always go according to plan. Our oversight must be as eager to protect the taxpayer as we are to support our troops and American industry.”
Hartzler expressed in her opening remarks that she remains concerned about the overall defense topline and whether Congress is “setting the right conditions” for continued growth in the defense budget.
The mark’s executive summary released June 3 includes funds to procure two F-15EX prototype aircraft to be built by Boeing [BA], with a requirement that the Air Force submit a detailed program report to Congress before funds for any further F-15s are authorized (Defense Daily, June 3). Specific funding details for Tactical Air and Land Forces programs were not included in the summary.
Subcommittee members highlighted F-35 fighter sustainment and modernization as a critical area of priority in their FY ’20 mark. It authorizes economic order quantities to procure bulk parts and materials for future Joint Strike Fighters in order to achieve better cost savings, Norcross said.
The subcommittee also prioritized the F-35’s Block 4 modernization program as an area to receive increased oversight, with Norcross noting that the effort has an initial estimated cost of $10.5 billion.
“Given the scope and complexity of this effort, the mark takes the necessary steps to improve oversight and transparency for this critically needed program,” he said.
The bill would also prohibit the Air Force from using FY ‘20 funds to retire or prepare to retire the Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. The subcommittee’s mark requires the secretary of defense to certify to congressional committees that equivalent capacity and capability exists to replace the RC-135 60 days prior to retirement.
The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to consider the full mark June 12.