The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015 on Friday, sending the bill to the president’s desk for the 53rd year in a row.
The House passed the bill Dec. 4, and despite a last-minute effort from retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to push the bill back into the committee instead of coming to the floor for final passage, the bill passed the Senate 89-11. (Defense Daily, Dec. 4).
Earlier in the week, as lawmakers debated the defense authorization bill, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman praised the bill as being not perfect but much needed compromise bill for the military.
“The bill adds hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to improve the readiness of our Armed Forces across all branches—Active, Guard, and Reserve— to help blunt some—and I emphasize some—of the negative effects of sequestration,” he said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “It includes provisions increasing funding for science and technology … and requiring government-wide reform of information technology acquisition.”
The legislation was not passed in the usual order, but rather followed last year’s method. The House had passed its bill out of the committee and out of the full House, but the Senate was unable to secure floor time despite an overwhelmingly positive vote in the committee. House and Senate armed services committee staffers have been working since September to write a compromise bill, rather than having the congressmen and senators meet in a formal conference committee like they would have if the Senate passed its bill.
Levin noted in his Wednesday floor speech that, despite the nontraditional process, 44 amendments from senators were included in the compromise bill.
Several of those amendments dealt with cyber issues. Levin said in his speech, “I am pleased the bill also includes a half dozen provisions to address the growing cyber threat to critical information systems of the Department of Defense and the Nation. One provision which was added to the bill was the Levin-McCain amendment, which requires the President to identify nations that engage in economic or industrial espionage against the United States through cyber space and provides authority to impose trade sanctions on persons determined to be knowingly engaged in such espionage.
“A second provision which arose out of a committee investigation of cyber threats to the Department of Defense requires the Secretary of Defense to establish procedures for identifying contractors that are operationally critical to mobilization, deployment or sustainment of contingency operations and to ensure that such contractors report any successful penetrations of their computer networks,” Levin continued. “Much more remains to be done, but these are important first steps as we begin to respond to the serious threat posed to U.S. interests by cyber attacks.”
SASC ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), in a speech Wednesday following Levin’s, noted the importance of several aircraft modernization programs supported in the bill, saying that “historically, we have always had the best of everything, but now when we look at China and at Russia and what they are doing, it is a very difficult situation for us.”
“We had the F–22; the President terminated that program his first year in office. So now we have all of our eggs in the basket in terms of the strike vehicles and the F–35. A lot of people don’t like the F–35, but that is what we have to have and that is in this bill to continue with that,” he said. “The E–2D surveillance aircraft is one very few people know about. It is one of the ugliest airplanes in the sky, but it is one that is necessary for surveillance and other functions of government. We have the KC–46 tanker aircraft. We have been using the KC–135 now for decades and we have to go toward a more modern vehicle, and we do have on the books that we will continue to do that, working with the KC–46. So several others—some improvements to the workhorse of the military, the C– 130 aircraft, and other vehicles.”
With the passage of the NDAA, the Senate was left to pass its spending bill by Wednesday. The House passed a $1.01-trillion spending package on Thursday night, along with a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open for two more days to give the Senate time to pass the bill. (Defense Daily, Dec. 11). On Friday afternoon, the House extended its CR several more days, giving the Senate a Wednesday deadline.