Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Armed Services Committee jointly announced an agreement on the final draft version of a compromise $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 last week.
The House Armed Services Committee approved a compromise defense policy bill on July 26 that authorizes large boosts in spending by the Department of Defense increases, including increasing the number of troops in the United States Armed Forces, and in their equipment and weapons for the upcoming fiscal year.
The National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515) will also implement a series of new reforms and policy efforts. It passed by a House floor vote of 359 to 54.
NDAA builds on momentum to grow the size and might of the military in response to China and Russia’s growing capabilities. The Trump request for FY 2019 included an increase of more than 15,000 active-duty troops, which was matched in the defense plan approved by the House.
The Senate in mid-June passed its version of the FY 2019 NDAA, setting the stage for negotiations with the House to create a unified set of policy and spending priorities to approve later this year. The NDAA is expected to become law at the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1, the first on-time passage of the NDAA in about 20 years.
Last week, a joint panel of House and Senate lawmakers reached a deal on the NDAA after weeks of negotiations that followed a series of discussions and hearings with top military officials.
“This bill takes a major step forward in rebuilding our military, reforms the Pentagon and better prepares this country for dealing with the national security challenges which lay before us,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
“This bill continues to make readiness a key focus, for if we send our men and women out on missions, they deserve to have the best equipment, the best training and the best support that this country can provide.”
The compromise NDAA authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for servicemembers, the largest increase in nine years. It also authorizes new purchases of aircraft, warships, submarines and weapons. The NDAA also lists the next steps in organizing a Space Force, but falls short of Donald Trump’s calls for a new military branch.
This legislation will strengthen our military’s readiness, provide our troops a pay raise, support effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy, drive further innovation in emerging technologies to secure our military advantage and continue to reform the Department of Defense, said Thornberry.
China immediately blasted the new NDAA, saying it reflect the unchanged Cold War mentality of the U.S. The act contains several provisions that are tough on China and Russia. Chinese military analysts noted that among the five NDAAs from 2015 to 2019, China was mentioned 67 times in 2015 and 57 times in 2017. The 2019 NDAA mentions China 29 times.
Hong Lei, consul general of the Chinese consulate general in Chicago, criticized the NDAA’s designation of China as a strategic competitor of the U.S. and said this move reflected America’s Cold War and zero-sum game mentality.
Wu Xinbo, Dean of the Institute of International Studies of China’s Fudan University, said the 2019 NDAA reflects some of the latest changes in America’s policy towards China. This NDAA has increased America’s defense against China militarily and in the economic sphere. It also emphasizes the introduction of a comprehensive strategy to deal with challenges from China.
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