S. 2943 – FY17 Defense Authorization Report
Background: The Senate Armed Services Committee reported out its version of the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill, S. 2943, on May 12, 2016, by a vote of 23-3 (Cruz, Fischer, Lee opposing). The Senate approved its final version of the bill on June 14, 2016, by a vote of 85-13. The House approved its version of the bill, H.R. 4909, on May 18, 2016, by a vote of 277-147. On July 14, the Senate invoked cloture on the compound motions required to go to conference by a vote of 90-7. The conference committee has completed its work. All Senators on the committee signed the accompanying report except for Senators Lee and Gillibrand. The House approved this conference report on December 2 by a vote of 375-34.
Floor Situation: The Senate is expected to consider this bill this week.
Considerations on the Bill
The administration’s overall fiscal year 2017 defense budget request within the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee was for $608 billion in discretionary spending, composed of the following:
$524 billion for the Department of Defense base budget,
$19.2 billion for Department of Energy national security programs,
$211 million for the Maritime Security Program, and
$64.6 billion for OCO. This is composed of:
$58.8 billion from the budget request submitted in February, and
$5.8 billion from the request formally submitted after the election even though the need for it was known this summer.
Of note, $5.1 billion of the OCO request submitted in February was for funding requirements in the base budget.
The conference report authorizes $611.2 billion in discretionary spending, composed of the following:
$523.7 billion for the Department of Defense base budget,
$19.4 billion for Department of Energy national security programs,
$300 million for the Maritime Security Program, and
$67.8 billion for OCO, of which
$8.3 billion is for base budget requirements, meaning that the report authorizes $3.2 billion more for OCO spending directed towards requirements in the base budget than was requested by the administration.
Notable Bill Provisions
Section 1032 extends for one year the prohibition on the use of funds to transfer to the United States Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any other Guantanamo detainee.
Section 1034 extends for one year the prohibition in last year’s authorization bill on the use of funds to transfer any Guantanamo detainee to Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen.
The provision in the Senate version of the bill requiring women to register for the draft is not included in the final conference report. Section 551 et seq establishes a National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to review the draft process and consider methods to increase participation in these kinds of service. It is to consider, among other things, the need for a draft.
Section 601 provides a pay raise of 2.1 percent for service members.
California National Guard
Section 671 addresses issues raised by the matter of recouping bonus and incentive payments made to California National Guard members. Subsection (a) creates, going forward, a general statute of limitations of 10 years on the ability of the government to collect a debt potentially owed by a service member as a result of an overpayment to such a member. Subsection (c) addresses the California matter specifically. It essentially ratifies the Department’s current review process. It goes on to provide that if the review process determines a member was given an incentive payment for which he or she was not eligible, the review should determine whether to waive efforts to recoup that payment. It provides that a waiver would be warranted unless the review process “makes an affirmative determination, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the member knew or reasonably should have known that the member was ineligible” for the incentive payment. If an overpayment has already been recouped, then that recoupment would be determined to be unwarranted by the same standard of review. It further provides that funding for these matters, including the return of payments determined to have been inappropriately recouped, “shall be derived from amounts available for the National Guard of the United States for the State of California.” It finally requires a comprehensive report on the matter.
Tricare/Military health care
Title VII makes extensive reforms to the system directed at improving the quality of care and enhancing medical readiness. For example, it reforms the Tricare system to provide two primary plans: Tricare Prime (a managed care option) and Tricare Select (a self-managed, preferred-provider network option). It goes on to provide a cost structure for these plans, establishing enrollment fees, deductibles, and certain co-payments. There are no increases in out-of-pocket costs for current service members or retirees.
Section 701 modifies the cost and benefit structures of the plans for future military retirees who join the military on or after January 1, 2018. The provision in the Senate bill making adjustments to pharmaceutical co-pays under the Tricare pharmacy program is not included in this final bill.
Section 1085 amends section 101 of the National Security Act to provide that the number of staff shall not exceed 200, a limitation to take effect 18 months after the date of enactment.
Uniform Code of Military Justice
Division E is the Military Justice Act of 2016, providing a comprehensive update of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Defense Base Realignment and Closure
President Obama requested authorization to conduct another BRAC round, which section 2702 specifically declines to provide.
Section 901 repeals 10 U.S.C. § 133 providing for an undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and replaces it with 10 U.S.C. § 133a & 133b, providing for an undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and an undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment. In the accompanying joint explanatory statement, the conferees expressed their belief that “the technology and acquisition missions and cultures are distinct.” They went on to express their expectation that the research and engineering portfolio “would take risks [and] press the technology envelopment”; whereas the acquisition portfolio would “minimize” risks in delivering cost-effective products and services. The undersecretary for research and engineering is to be the department’s “chief technology officer.” These changes are effective February 2018.
Section 911 directs the secretary to formulate an organizational strategy for the department directed at, among other things, improving management relationships and processes involving his office, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commands, the military departments, and the defense agencies.
U.S. Cyber Command is currently a part of Strategic Command. Section 923 of the bill establishes it as its own unified combatant command.
Afghan special immigrant visas
The current state of the law provides that no more than 7,000 special immigrant visas are to be issued to qualified Afghanis after December 19, 2014. Section 1214 increases that number to 8,500 and extends the program four years to December 31, 2020.
A statement of administration policy is not available at this time.
A Congressional Budget Office estimate of the direct spending effects of the bill says that outlays will decrease the deficit by $119 million in fiscal year 2017, owing primarily to changes made to the Acquisition Workforce Fund in section 1005.
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