December 12, 2019

S.1790 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY2020


Background: The Senate passed S.1790, the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on June 27 by a vote of 86-8. The House passed its version of the NDAA, H.R.2500, on July 12 by a vote of 220 to 197.

The House passed the NDAA conference report on December 11 by a vote of 377-48.

Floor Situation: The Senate is expected to consider the conference report to the NDAA this work period.

Executive Summary: The fiscal year 2020 NDAA conference report authorizes $735 billion for national defense spending within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee: $658.1 billion for the base budgets of the Department of Defense and national security funding in the Department of Energy; $71.5 billion for overseas contingency operations; and $5.3 billion in emergency disaster recovery spending at military installations.

The bill provides for a 3.1% pay raise for members of the armed forces, creates a new Space Force, invests the necessary resources to achieve the goals in the most recent National Defense Strategy, includes landmark reform of privatized military housing, and prioritizes research and development into key technologies. 


The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes funding for defense, military construction, and energy-related national security programs.

DOD’s fiscal year 2020 budget request totaled $750 billion for national defense activities. Of that amount, $577 billion was for the base defense and energy-related national security budget and $164 billion for “overseas contingency operations.”

The NDAA conference report is consistent with the bipartisan budget agreement, which raised the caps for both defense and non-defense spending and allowed the NDAA to move funding from overseas contingency operations back into the base defense budget.


The NDAA makes reforms to DOD through the creation of the U.S. Space Force as a sixth military service. The last time a new military service was created was 1947.

President Trump has taken several actions this year as commander-in-chief of our military to secure our southern border and address the crisis of illegal immigration. In February, he declared a national emergency and ordered the transfer of $3.6 billion in military construction funding to be redirected toward wall construction at the southern border. Additionally, the Pentagon has used its non-emergency transfer authority to move $2.5 billion in military funding for counterdrug programs to be used to construct fencing on the southern border.   

The House-passed NDAA contained numerous provisions strongly opposed by President Trump and congressional Republicans. House provisions regarding perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, reductions to nuclear modernization efforts, limitations on the president’s authority to use the military to defend the southern border, repeal of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and prohibition of the use of force against Iran were all removed in conference.


Pay Raise and End Strength

Increases the pay of all members of the armed forces by 3.1%, the largest pay raise in nearly a decade, and authorizes the active-duty end strength at the following levels for 2020:  


U.S. Space Force

Establishes the U.S. Space Force as a sixth military service within the Air Force. Creates the chief of space operations who may serve as the commander of U.S. Space Command for the first year.

Creates an assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration. This office will oversee and be responsible for all space acquisition activities as the service acquisition executive beginning in 2022. Additionally, this assistant secretary will serve as the chair of the Space Force Acquisition Council and will oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, and Space Development Agency.

Requires U.S. Space Force to utilize Air Force military and civilian personnel and prohibits adding additional bureaucracy without reductions elsewhere.

Establishes an assistant secretary of defense for space policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Nuclear Weapons Modernization and Treaty Obligations

Fully funds the president’s request for nuclear modernization and ensures that DOD maintains the replacement modernization plans for all three legs of the nuclear triad. The NDAA contains no restrictions on the military’s ability to deploy low-yield nuclear weapons.

Also authorizes funding for the Department of Energy’s warhead-life extension programs and modernizes and replaces its aging infrastructure.

Prohibits in fiscal year 2020 procuring or deploying of new ground launched intermediate-range nuclear force missiles that would have been prohibited under the INF treaty.

Requires information on the analysis of alternatives to such new missiles. Research and development of these missiles may continue.

China and Russia

Increases funding for DOD to develop the capability to acquire rare earth minerals instead of relying on China.

Requires the Pentagon to analyze and provide a list of academic institutions in China and Russia with significant military research as part of their overall research and development.

Increases research and development for rapid testing of new transformational weapons systems such as hypersonic weapons.

Limits military cooperation with Russia and prohibits any funds relating to the recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

Advances missile defense capabilities and technology to counter ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missiles being contemplated by Russia and China.

Prioritizes America’s cybersecurity strategy in response to the 2018 DOD Cyber Strategy and Cyber Posture Review.

Expands provisions in the Never Contract with the Enemy Act.

Protects European energy security by imposing sanctions related to Russian energy pipelines Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream.

Declares Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 missile defense system to be a significant transaction under the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act and that the president should implement sanctions under that act.

Military Construction, Family Housing, and Family Support

Authorizes $11.8 billion for military construction, including family housing and $15 billion in additional funding for facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization.

In order to address the flaws and shortcomings in the military’s efforts to outsource its housing to government contractors, the NDAA takes the following actions:

  1. Directs DOD to create a Military Tenant Bill of Rights;

  2. Authorizes a clear and fair dispute resolution process for military tenants;

  3. Increases DOD oversight of military contractors through the Government Housing Office;

  4. Enhances quality assurance, inspections, and quality control measures;

  5. Temporarily grants direct hiring authority for government personnel to increase oversight of government contractors;

  6. Bans the use of non-disclosure agreements as a condition for moving out of military housing;

  7. Enhances protections against reprisal.

Authorizes $5.3 billion in emergency disaster military construction for California, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, and North Carolina.

Authorizes DOD to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to assist with funding and development of interstate compacts on licenses for military spouses. Extends the ability of DOD to reimburse spouses for licensure and certification costs by two years and doubles the reimbursement amount of state licensure expenses incurred by spouses.

Authorizes direct hire authority to expedite staff hiring for child development centers to improve capacity on military installations.

Phases out, over three years, the current requirement that Survivor Benefit Plan benefits for widows of veterans be offset by payments they receive from dependency and indemnity compensation.

Modernization and Procurement

Authorizes $9.3 billion for 90 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft:

  1. $5.6 billion for 60 F-35A fighters for the Air Force

  2. $1.3 billion for 10 F-35B fighters for the Marine Corps

  3. $2.2 billion for 20 F-35C fighters for the Navy

Provides authority to the secretary of defense to award multiyear contracts for F-35s bought in fiscal years 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Authorizes the following aircraft purchases:

  1. $1.75 billion for 24 F-18 Super Hornets for the Navy

  2. $986 million for eight F-15X aircraft for the Air Force

  3. $2.2 billion for 12 KC-46A refueling tankers for the Air Force

  4. $858 million for eight MC-130J cargo planes for the Air Force

  5. $798 million for 48 AH-64E remanufactured Apache helicopters for the Army

  6. $1.4 billion for 73 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters for the Army

Authorizes $24.1 billion to fund 12 new battle force ships and accelerate funding for additional ships:

  1. $5.0 billion for three new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

  2. $5.4 billion for two Virginia-class submarines with an additional $2.9 billion for advance procurement of an additional ship

Fully funds development of the new B-21 bomber.

Allies and Partners

Authorizes $4.5 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.

Authorizes $200 million for cooperative missile programs between the United States and Israel – Iron Dome, Arrow 3, and David’s Sling – in accordance with the U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding. 

Authorizes $300 million for security assistance to Ukraine, of which $50 million is only available for lethal assistance, and specifies that coastal defense and anti-ship missiles are eligible categories of security assistance.

Includes the text of H.R.31, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019. This bill establishes additional sanctions and financial restrictions on institutions and individuals who support the Syrian government, military, or contractors working for Syria, Russia, or Iran including aircraft parts, construction and engineering services, or goods and services related to Syrian oil production.   

Intelligence Authorization Act

Includes three years of the Intelligence Authorization Act – fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020 – for critical intelligence and intelligence-related activities.

Deters Russian and other foreign influence in our U.S. elections by requiring assessments of foreign intelligence threats to federal elections and a strategy for countering Russian cyber threats to U.S. elections.

Addresses challenges to the intelligence community’s supply chain by requiring an IC-led task force to protect against counterintelligence threats from countries such as Russia and China, and requires accountability for foreign threats to our infrastructure before entering into foreign intelligence sharing agreements. Requires relevant intelligence agencies to conduct a strategic intelligence assessment of domestic terrorism threats.

Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees

Provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. Civilian employees of the Department of Defense and intelligence communities make up 40% of the federal workforce.


The White House has not released a Statement of Administration Policy.

Regarding the NDAA conference report, President Trump tweeted: “Wow! All our priorities have made it into the final NDAA … I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately!”


The Congressional Budget Office cost estimate is not available.