Courtney Statement on Final Passage of FY19 Defense Authorization Bill
(Washington, DC) – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney, ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, voted for the conference report for the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The final vote in the House of Representatives was 359-54.
“Over the last year, my committee has heard the relentless drumbeat of anxiety and concern about the looming shortfall in our attack submarine fleet. Without timely action by Congress, the Trump administration, and the Navy, the fleet will fall to just 42 submarines within the next decade,” said Courtney. “At that reduced capacity, our military commanders will be left without the undersea capabilities they have made clear that they desperately need. While the president’s budget request this year only planned on building ten submarines in the next contract, Navy officials have made it clear that the capacity exists to build more than that over the next five years.
“That is why I am pleased that this bill will mandate that the Navy insert an option into the new block contract to add additional submarines over the next five years. Specifically, the conference report requires that the Block V Virginia contract currently under negotiation include priced options for additional submarines in 2022 and 2023. This provision will allow us to seize the unique opportunity before us to insert additional submarines into our shipbuilding plan to mitigate the decline in the fleet size. I will continue working to ensure that that the Trump administration, Congress, and the Navy take full advantage of the support provided in this bill to boost our undersea fleet.
“The important provisions in this bill showcase what Congress can accomplish when we collectively choose to work with our colleagues across the aisle and operate the committee process like a trusted, well-oiled machine. Even more impressive is the fact that passage of this year’s NDAA is the earliest it has been done in 20 years thanks largely to the bipartisan leadership of Chairman Thornberry and Ranking Member Smith.”
Key provisions that Courtney championed in the 2019 NDAA:
Virginia-class Submarines –authorizes $7.6 billion for the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines and advance procurement for future submarines. The measure also includes a requirement that the Block V contract currently under negotiation between the Navy and Electric Boat include priced options for additional, third submarines in years in 2022 and 2023, in addition to the ten planned currently. This provision will maintain the option for the next Congress to take advantage of the industrial base capacity the Navy testified is available to increase submarine construction in the future. This provision builds on Rep. Courtney’s work in the FY18 NDAA authorizing up to 13 submarines in the next block contract.
Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – authorizes $3.2 billion for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine and fully funds continued research and development at $527 million. This amount includes an additional $250 million to expand the submarine industrial base to ensure that second- and third-tier submarine suppliers will be able to respond to increased production demands for the Columbia and Virginia class submarine programs.
Pier Construction at New London Submarine Base —authorizes planning and design funding for future Navy military construction projects. The Navy testified to Courtney in a Readiness subcommittee hearing last month that it plans to use a portion of those funds this year to prepare for future pier modernization and construction at Submarine Base New London. These projects will ensure the base has sufficient pier capacity for future Block V Virginia class submarines, which will be more than 80 feet longer than the current submarine.
Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the committee’s bill authorizes 13 battle force ships, 3 more than the number requested by the Administration. The bill authorizes the procurement of including two Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), two T-AO 205 oilers, one Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), and one T-ATS towing, salvage, and rescue ship. In addition, the mark includes authorization for one additional Ford-class aircraft carrier, allowing the Navy to pursue a two-carrier buy. This approach, supported by Courtney, could save taxpayers billions of dollars in procurement costs.
Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – authorizes $20 million to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea vehicle technology, such as the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island.
Navy Collisions – the bill builds on the oversight work of the Seapower and Readiness subcommittees, on which Courtney serves, to address Navy readiness challenges following the incidents involving the USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS Antietam, and USS Lake Champlain in 2017. These include provisions that direct the Navy to assess the checks-and-balances in its chain of command, so operational demands are appropriately balanced with ship training, certification, and maintenance. It calls for analysis of Surface Warfare Officer career paths, limits to 10 years the period in which a ship may be forward deployed, and requires that ship readiness inspections be conducted on a no-notice basis, with results made available for the public to see.
Procurement Technical Assistant Program – The bill follows a Courtney request to increase support for Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), which help small businesses jump through the hoops and check all the boxes in order to do business with the Department of Defense. The bill increases authorized funding by $8.5 million and reduces the burden on PTACs to find matching local funding. In Connecticut, PTAP is operated by the SouthEastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (SECTER) and located in Groton.
Imminent Danger Pay – Earlier this year, Courtney questioned military officials about significant delays in approving imminent danger pay, or IDP, for US military personnel serving in areas such as Niger and Mali after hearing from a constituent who serves in the Navy and was deployed to Niger in December 2017 without receiving IDP. The bill includes language “strongly encouraging” the Secretary of Defense to approve request for IDP within 90 days, and also includes a related report on improving the imminent danger and hostile fire pay determination and award process.
Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement
Joint Strike Fighter – authorizes more than $10 billion for 77 F-35 procurement and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found. It also includes $92 million in additional funding for spare parts to improve the readiness of our new F-35 squadrons.
Long Range Strike Bomber – fully supports the requested $2.3 billion for continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
Blackhawks – Authorizes $1.1 billion for the procurement of 54 Blackhawk helicopters, $85 million and five aircraft above the requested level to provide additional resources the Army National Guard.
CH-53K – authorizes $1.1 billion for the new Marine heavy-lift helicopter, the procurement of 8 aircraft, and $327 million for continued research and development.
Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – supports the budget request of $1.1 billion for procurement 10 aircraft and continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.
KC-46A Tanker – authorizes $2.3 billion for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft. Establishes a floor of 479 air refueling tanker aircraft in the Air Force inventory, subject to the results of a new Mobility Capability and Requirements Study.
VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – supports the Administration’s request for $649 million for procurement of 6 aircraft and continued development of the next-generation presidential helicopter, $24 million for necessary modifications to the existing fleet, and $245 million in associated research and development.
C-130H Modernization – the measure continues Congressman Courtney’s efforts to accelerate the modernization of the C-130H cargo aircraft fleet. In addition to fully supporting the efforts to upgrade the avionics of the fleet to meet new airspace requirements, the bill authorizes $129 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the President’s request.
Other Notable Provisions
BRAC – Does not authorize a base closing round.
Military Pay Raise – provides a 2.6% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth.
DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $40 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to local school districts with high proportions of military children, including Groton public schools. This program is in addition to the primary Impact Aid program funded through the Department of Education, which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee. The bill also authorizes $10 million in impact aid for children with severe disabilities.
Commissary Benefits for Disabled and Distinguished Veterans and Caregivers – The bill includes the text of a bill known as the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018. The provision extends access to commissaries and MWR facilities to veterans who have been awarded the Purple Heart or Medal of Honor, who are former prisoners of war, caregivers enrolled in the VA’s caregiver program (eligibility for which will expand under the Courtney backed VA Mission Act) and veterans with a service-connected disability of any rating. Currently, only veterans with a 100% disability rating from the VA have commissary access. This provision will take effect on January 1, 2020.
Defense Community Infrastructure Program – Authorizes a new program allowing DOD to help states and local governments fund off-base infrastructure projects that support operations and the base community. Infrastructure improvements could include transportation projects, schools, first responder facilities, and utility projects.
Firearms – Improves crime reporting by requiring the Department of Defense to establish a centralized oversight system to ensure criminal data is transmitted to the FBI database preventing the purchase of a firearm.
Opioids – Requires the Department of Defense to establish a prescription drug monitoring program and share information with state prescription drug monitoring programs in order prevent opioid abuse within the