The leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) plans to introduce a stripped-down version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) next week as a last-ditch effort to push colleagues to reach consensus on a number of partisan issues while the conference bill flounders.
“This is sincere, but this is only in the event that we don’t pass a bill,” Inhofe told two reporters, including Defense Daily, Oct. 23 on Capitol Hill. He plans to introduce it in anticipation of other matters – such as the ongoing deliberation on impeachment proceedings in the House – sucking out oxygen on the Hill.
“Who knows? They may decide to do impeachment, and we’ll be stuck on the floor for two weeks and run out of time and then our [military doesn’t] even get paid,” he said. The plan is to introduce the bill Oct. 29.
The crucial funding authorities center around personal pay, but must-have provisions in the skinny NDAA that relate to procurement and operations and maintenance include long-lead efficiencies for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, forward maintenance for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship fleet, operations and maintenance for cyber capabilities and DoD travel support for federal officials, according to a Senate Armed Services Committee flash card viewed by Defense Daily.
It would also authorize National Commissions on Artificial Intelligence, Aviation Safety and Cyberspace, as well as operations related to counter-ISIS missions, coalition reimbursement, partner equipment loaning and the Afghan supply line, the card said.
A source close to the committee noted to Defense Daily that other authorizations could make it into the skinny NDAA as well, but it is not clear yet what they would be.
Inhofe confirmed that the Trump administration’s plans to stand up a new Space Force within the Air Force would not be authorized under a skinny NDAA, adding that the goal of the stripped-down bill is to authorize funding for non-controversial but critical efforts that would otherwise expire by the end of this year.
“So far no one who has seen this [list] has objected to the choices,” Inhofe said. “They all have nothing to do with anything except defending the country.”
If NDAA conferees do not reach agreement on a full authorization bill and the skinny NDAA is passed instead, it is unlikely the authorizing committees would revisit the outstanding authorizations this budget cycle, as lawmakers are already “well into” planning for the FY ’21 budget cycle, Inhofe said.
Still, he expressed optimism that the conferees will achieve their goal of agreeing upon a full bipartisan FY ’20 bill. Sources on Capitol Hill have said the sticking points remain largely on extremely partisan issues, such as funding the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“We’re at probably 80 percent of being able to pass a bill,” Inhofe said. “Hopefully this will be motivation for them to get to the other areas like the border.”
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) issued a strong warning and call for Congress to pass the fiscal year 2020 defense authorizing and appropriations bills in the wake of increased tensions around the globe.
“I have 100 percent certainty that the United States is going to be tested in the weeks to come,” he said. “It may well be by Iran in the Gulf; it may be by Russia and [leaders] in Syria, it may be by terrorists in Afghanistan or elsewhere, or someplace else in the world.
“We will be tested, and yet we have less than a month of funding for our military right now,” he continued.