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Final 2021 NDAA Nears Completion as House Votes to Pass Bipartisan NDAA Conference Report

December 8, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following statement today after the House voted in overwhelming bipartisan fashion to pass the conference report to accompany the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Courtney was a core conferee appointed to the committee responsible for negotiating the final bill, and led the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee in securing some of the final package’s most important provisions. The House passed the final conferenced version of the NDAA today by a vote of 335-78-1.

The FY21 NDAA conference report provides support for Rep. Courtney’s bipartisan effort to restore full funding for the construction of the second Virginia-class submarine—a vessel that the Navy listed as its most important unfunded priority in 2021—and includes many other important provisions. The final, conferenced NDAA also includes Rep. Courtney’s amendments to support academic partnerships for undersea research like those at UConn, to authorize $50 million for the DOD supplemental Impact Aid Program which supports public school districts like Groton and Ledyard, to prioritize working with U.S. allies to protect critical materials, and much more. 

Today, the House voted to seal the deal. The final negotiated version of the 2021 NDAA includes the Seapower Subcommittee’s year-long effort to buck the Trump Budget and fully restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine, it sets course on the decades-long journey to see the new Columbia-class program through to completion, and it provides steadfast support to our men and women in uniform and to eastern Connecticut’s manufacturing sector,” said Congressman Courtney. “This is a strong, bipartisan conference report, it’s embedded with some of the most important priorities of the Seapower Subcommittee, and the House came together today to pass the final conference report in a bipartisan landslide. 

“As I get ready to close out my first term as Chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, I’m particularly pleased with what we were able to achieve in this year’s NDAA while up against a global pandemic, and an Administration seemingly determined to weaken the Navy’s shipbuilding plan. Our final bill doesn’t just reverse the White House’s budget request on submarines, it also provides the final authorizations needed to move full steam ahead on the Navy’s most important next-generation acquisition priority: the Columbia-class submarine program. The Virginia-class submarine we successfully restored to the NDAA will be in the water for the next forty years, and shipbuilders in Groton will be developing the Columbia-class for the next thirty years—these aren’t just priorities for our U.S. Navy, they’re generational opportunities for thousands of manufacturers and engineers in eastern Connecticut.

The final agreement we passed today also authorizes an across-the-board pay raise for our troops, supports critical airlift platforms operated by National Guard forces across the U.S., and much more. These are the sorts of bipartisan achievements that are at risk when the President lobs out nonsensical veto threats—our Navy’s top priorities, pay raises for our soldiers, opportunities for American manufacturers, and more. I was proud to negotiate this final bipartisan NDAA and to advance it one last time today in the House. There’s no excuse for the President to not sign this bill, and we’re moving forward to get the job done.”

Key provisions that Courtney championed in the 2021 NDAA  

Seapower and Projection Forces Priorities  
As Chairman of the 
Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Courtney has advocated for Navy, Air Force and maritime priorities important to Connecticut and the nation.  
Virginia Class Submarine – The report authorizes $6.8 billion for the Virginia class submarine program, an increase of $2.6 billion over the budget request that 
Courtney secured to restore a second submarine in 2021. The Trump Administration requested just one submarine in 2021, breaking the steady two a year build rate that has been in place since 2011 and undermining efforts to address looming shortfalls in the submarine fleet. 
Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – The report authorizes $4 billion to initiate construction of the new Columbia-class submarine. Last month, the Navy announced the award of $10.3 billion in contracting options for the first two submarines in the program to Electric Boat. The report also includes Courtney’s provision to authorize incremental funding for these submarines within the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund, which will ensure the cost-effective and efficient construction of this important program.  
Submarine Workforce and Development Training – Authorizes $20 million to support training programs to help support expansion of the skilled submarine workforce as the industrial base ramps up construction of new submarines. Courtney has strongly supported workforce development efforts in the region to support hiring at Electric Boat and the supply chain through programs like the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline.  
Long Range Strike Bomber – The report fully supports the requested $2.8 billion for continued development of the B-21 Raider. Pratt & Whitney is a partner in the next-generation long range strike bomber program.  
KC-46A Pegasus – The report authorizes $2.7 billion for 15 KC-46A tanker aircraft, which are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. The agreement also mandates that the Secretary of the Air Force develop a complete, permanent solution to the KC-46 remote visual system (RVS) operation limitations, submitting the solution Congress no later than February 1, 2021.  
C-130H Modernization – The measure continues Congressman Courtney’s efforts to accelerate the modernization of the C-130H cargo aircraft fleet, like those flown by the Connecticut Air National Guard. In addition to fully supporting the efforts to upgrade and modernize the avionics of the fleet, the bill authorizes $134 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the President’s request. 
P-8 Poseidon – The report authorizes $1.4 billion for 8 P-8 Poseidon aircraft, the Navy's newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. This will bring the Navy closer to the warfighting requirement of 138 aircraft and ensure the continued modernization of the Navy Reserves’ legacy P-3 fleet.   
KMAX Unmanned Helicopter – The report authorizes $7 million to continue development of unmanned logistics capabilities with the CQ-24A helicopter manufactured by Bloomfield-based Kaman Aerospace. 
Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the report authorizes more than $22 billion to procure 9 new battle force ships, two more than the budget request, in. The budget requested one of the lowest levels of new ships in nearly a decade and did not include the long range shipbuilding plan required by law to provide insight into future plans to grow the fleet. 
Courtney pressed Defense Secretary Mark Esper on his failure to abide by the law in a hearing earlier this year. The final agreement also includes language Courtney authored to restrict some funding for the Office of Secretary of Defense until the 30-year shipbuilding plan is delivered, and prohibits the retirement of any Navy vessel until the Secretary of Defense provides a Navy force structure assessment.  
Recapitalization of our Domestic Sealift Capabilities – The report includes several Courtney-led investments in the recapitalization of our domestic sealift and maritime response capabilities. These includes authorizing the purchase of additional used vessels to replace aging sealift ships but rejecting a Defense Department request to eliminate the requirement to initiate a domestic new build ship. The bill also authorizes a new Tanker Security Program to address the alarming gap in at-sea logistics, authorizes the fourth National Security Multi-Mission Vessel and authorizes a $180 million increase in funding for the Maritime Security Program to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our domestic shipping fleet.  

Additional Courtney priorities included 

Rare Earth Minerals – the report includes an amendment Courtney authored that requires the Secretary of Defense to prioritize the acquisition of strategic and critical materials from U.S. and allied sources ensuring the continued protection of our national defense supply chains. These types of minerals and materials are used in everything from cell phones to the joint strike fighter and a secured supply chain of these materials is of utmost importance to national security.  
Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – The report authorizes $10 million to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea unmanned warfare and energy technology, such as the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island. During debate on the bill in the House, Courtney and Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) passed an amendment to increase funding for this effort from $5 million to $10 million.  
Joint Strike Fighter – The report provides $8.7 billion for the procurement of 93 F-35s and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found and if prime suppliers remain on-schedule.  
UH-60 Blackhawks – The report authorizes nearly $1 billion for 60 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, an increase over the budget request, built by Sikorsky.  
CH-53K King Stallion – The report authorizes $800 million for procurement of 7 new Ch-53K Marine heavy-lift helicopters, built by Sikorsky.  
Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – The report supports the Administration’s request for $909 million for procurement of 16 HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopters built by Sikorsky.   
VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – The report supports the Administration’s request for $589 million for procurement of 5 aircraft, which will be the next-generation presidential helicopter.  
Ukraine – authorizes $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.  
DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $50 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. 
Coast Guard Reauthorization – the agreement includes the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to further strengthen our nation’s Coast Guard by enhancing navigation and maritime safety, authorizing new family leave and child care policies, and increasing gender and racial diversity in the Coast Guard Academy in New London and across the ranks.  

Other Notable Provisions  

Renaming Confederate Military Installations – The agreement includes an amendment that Courtney cosponsored that establishes an independent commission to make binding recommendations to the Secretary of Defense for the modification or removal of all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the DoD.  
Limitations on Funds to Remove Active Duty Troops from Germany – The agreement bars the Department from using any funds authorized by Congress to reduce the number of active duty troops stationed in Germany until DOD submits a report to Congress certifying that any reduction would not undermine the security of the U.S. or our allies in the region.   
BRAC – The report does not authorize a base closing round.  
Military Pay Raise – The report provides a 3.0% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth. 
Agent Orange Exposure Benefits – the report adds additional diseases to Section 1116(a)(2) of Title 38, USC including Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, and hypothyroidism to the list of diseases associated with exposure to certain herbicide agents. The report would also mandate that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide benefits to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and later diagnosed with these afflictions. 
Climate Change Resiliency – The agreement requires a report updating Congress on the implementation of provisions from the FY2020 NDAA related to installation master planning, updates to installation building codes, sea-level rise modeling, and climate assessment tools. The final agreement would also require DoD to submit a report on its greenhouse gas emission for the last 10 years. 
Pacific Deterrence Initiative – the report authorizes a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative to reassure allies and partners of U.S. commitment to the region and to enhance congressional oversight of military activities throughout the area of responsibility.  
Defense Community Infrastructure Program – Authorizes $50 million for the 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.