June 05, 2018

S.2987 John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for FY2019


Background The Senate Armed Services Committee filed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act on June 5, 2018. The committee voted on May 23 to advance this bill to the Senate floor by a vote of 25-2. The House passed its version of the NDAA, HR 5515, on May 24, 2018, by a vote of 351-66.

Floor Situation: The Senate is expected to begin debate on the NDAA as soon as June 6, 2018.

Executive Summary: The fiscal year 2019 NDAA authorizes $707.7 billion for defense spending: $639.2 billion for the base budget (in line with the defense budget cap) and $68.5 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget. The bill authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces, aligns the Department of Defense to achieve the goals in the most recent National Defense Strategy, prioritizes research and development into key technologies, and reforms the military personnel system.


The Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2019 budget request totaled $708.1 billion for national defense activities. Of that amount, $639.1 billion was for the defense base budget and $69.0 for the overseas contingency operation budget.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 authorizes appropriations for defense, military construction, and energy-related national security programs. The Senate Armed Services Committee-reported bill authorizes $639.2 billion for the base budget and $68.5 billion for OCO for a total of $707.7 billion.


The fiscal year 2019 NDAA will be the first Senate bill debated on the floor regarding increased spending for the Pentagon under the 2018 Balanced Budget Agreement that provided DoD with a base budget increase of $74 billion in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.

Senate floor consideration and conference of the National Defense Authorization Act is typically noncontroversial but has been delayed in recent years due to the debate on the share of defense spending compared to non-defense spending.

Given the prior agreement on spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, the fiscal year 2019 NDAA is not likely to be encumbered with a larger budget debate.


Pay Raise and End Strength

Increases the pay of all members of the armed forces by 2.6 percent, the highest pay raise in nearly a decade.

Increases the Army end strength by more than 2,000 soldiers to 485,741.

Increases the Navy end strength by more than 4,000 sailors to 331,900.

Increases the Marine Corps end strength by 100 marines to 186,100.

Increases the Air Force end strength by 620 airmen to 325,700.

Organization, Management, and Military Personnel Reform

Changes the title for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and chief human capital officer for the Department of Defense.

Moves readiness responsibilities in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to the undersecretary for policy.

Expands a current position within the undersecretary of defense for policy office to be the new assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, assessments, readiness, and capabilities.

Enhances and reforms the assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict to have authorities over special forces similar to the military service secretaries

Modernizes the 38-year old military officer personnel system to provide greater career flexibility to meet the needs of the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Decreases importance of time-in-service as a factor for promotion and allows officers to serve longer in their current rank without being forced to retire.

Research and Development

Increases overall research and development spending by $1.2 billion above the president’s request.

Authorizes an increase of more than $600 million above the president’s budget request for high priority science, technology, and testing programs, including $75 million for university research.

Adds the following funding above the president’s budget request in the following areas:

  1. $150 million for hypersonics

  2. $110 million for space constellation efforts

  3. $50 million for rocket propulsion

  4. $40 million for directed energy

  5. $20 million for quantum information sciences

Authorizes $150 million and requires DoD to partner with the commercial technology industry and academia to increase private investment in specific hardware with unique national security applications.

Permanently authorizes the Small Business Innovation Research program, which allows DoD to award contracts directly to small businesses in response to DoD research and development needs.

National Security Provisions

Includes the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act as adopted by the Senate Banking Committee to give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States authority it needs to address national security concerns.

Prohibits the secretary of defense from procuring, obtaining, extending, or renewing a contract with an entity that uses telecommunications equipment or services produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation.

Authorizes the National Command Authority to direct U.S. Cyber Command to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by Russia in cyberspace.

Modernization and Procurement

Authorizes $7.6 billion for 75 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, versus the president’s budget request for 77 aircraft:

  1. $4.2 billion for 47 F-35A fighters for the Air Force

  2. $2.4 billion for 20 F-35B fighters for the Marine Corps

  3. $1 billion for eight F-35C fighters for the Navy

Authorizes $23.1 billion for shipbuilding – an increase of $1.2 billion over the president’s request – to fully fund 10 new battle ships and accelerate funding for several future ships:

  1. $5.9 billion for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers

  2. $7.4 billion for Virginia-class submarines

  3. $3.0 billion for Columbia-class submarines

Fully authorizes $9.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency to develop advanced technology, protect forces in South Korea, and counter emerging threats.

Authorizes $2.3 billion to procure 14 KC-46 aircraft, compared to the president’s budget request of 15 aircraft.

Fully funds development of the new B-21 bomber.

Authorizes the Coast Guard to acquire six polar-class heavy icebreakers.

Allies and Partners

Authorizes $5.2 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund.

Authorizes $300 million to train and equip the vetted Syrian opposition to counter ISIS, but limits the use of funds until the president submits a report on U.S. strategy in Syria.

Authorizes $850 million to train and equip Iraqi Security Forces to counter ISIS.

Authorizes $200 million to provide security assistance to Ukraine, including defensive lethal assistance.

Requires the secretary of defense to report on the feasibility and advisability of permanently stationing an Army brigade combat team in Poland.

Fully supports the president’s budget request for Israeli missile defense by authorizing $500 million to co-develop and co-produce the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling weapon systems.


The White House statement of administration policy for the Senate Armed Services Committee reported version of the fiscal year 2019 NDAA is not yet available.


The Congressional Budget Office estimate for the Senate Armed Services Committee reported version of the bill is not yet available.