Senate Clears Defense Authorization Bill, Sets Stage for Conference Negotiations
December 7, 2012
Government Relations Update - Defense
After five days of debate, on Tuesday evening the Senate unanimously passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13). The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 98-0, setting the stage for what is expected to be the 52nd consecutive straight year an NDAA has been passed. The Senate adopted about three dozen more non-controversial amendments this week that were passed en bloc. The only amendment that was subject to a roll call vote this week was one offered by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which would require DOD to conduct a report on establishing a no-fly zone in Syria. McCain’s amendment was adopted by a vote of 92-6.
The differences between the Senate-passed bill and the House version of the measure, which was passed in May, will now have to be worked out during conference negotiations between the two chambers. The Senate named its conferees after passing the bill Tuesday night, and the House is expected to name its conferees early next week. Some of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA have already been resolved at the staff and Member levels, and both sides have expressed confidence that they can quickly agree to a compromise on the bill. However, the conference committee will still have a number of outstanding issues to resolve:
- Funding Levels – Conferees will need to settle on the overall funding level. The Senate funding level aligns with the Administration’s FY13 budget request, while the House bill’s funding level aligns with the FY13 budget resolution passed by House Republicans. Overall, the Senate bill would allocate $631.4 billion in discretionary funds for defense activities, while the House bill would provide $642.7 billion in discretionary funds. Ultimately the final bill is likely to be closer to the Administration’s budget request, but it is unclear if this will be a major point of contention.
- East Coast Missile Defense Shield – The House bill includes $100 million for exploring locations for an East Coast missile defense shield; the Senate bill does not provide any such funding. There are some Senate Republicans that support the project, however, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who announced her support on the floor during debate on the NDAA.
- Policy Riders – The House bill includes a provision that would ban gay marriages on military bases and would clarify that military chaplains are allowed to object to performing gay marriage ceremonies. The Senate bill contains a provision offered by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would allow the military to provide abortions on military bases in cases of rape and incest. Neither of these provisions are likely to make it to the final bill, but could provoke intense debate.
- Biofuels – The Senate adopted two amendments that would provide the authority to continue the Defense Department’s alternative energy programs, while the House bill includes restrictions on the development and purchase of military biofuels.
- Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens – The Senate adopted a provision offered by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) that would make it illegal to detain a U.S. citizen or permanent resident apprehended in the United States without charge or trial. The amendment faced some vocal opposition from Republicans in the Senate and is likely to face more of the same from House Republicans during conference negotiations.
House Democrats Announce Committee Ranking Member Positions
The House Democratic Caucus steering and policy committee controlled by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) selected its committee ranking members on Tuesday and the full Democratic Caucus ratified those selections later in the day. Subcommittee leadership positions are still undetermined. The House Ranking Members for the 113th Congress for committees of note to the defense industry are:
- Appropriations – Nita Lowey of New York
- Armed Services – Adam Smith of Washington
- Budget – Chris Van Hollen of Maryland
- Foreign Affairs – Eliot Engel of New York
- Homeland Security – Bennie Thompson of Mississippi
- Veterans’ Affairs – Michael Michaud of Maine
- Select Committee on Intelligence – Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland
Aerospace Industry Urges Obama, Congress to Find Sequestration Solution
On Monday, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) sent a letter signed by over 100 defense industry CEO’s to President Obama and Congress, urging them to find an immediate solution to the budget crisis before sequestration takes effect on January 2nd. The letter emphasizes the urgency of finding a solution and notes that there are only 28 days left to act. AIA also held a press conference Monday with four industry leaders during which it reiterated its call for an urgent solution, but did not lay out specific recommendations.
General Dunford Confirmed as Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford was confirmed by the Senate on Monday night to take over the post as the top commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. He replaces Army Gen. John Allen, whose nomination to be the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of the U.S. European Command is currently stalled. Gen. Dunford becomes the fifth top commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan. He previously served as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Next Week on Capitol Hill
Quote of the Week
“Sequestration is only a relatively small, short-term and tactical part of the greater challenge facing the country, one that can do great damage without doubt if allowed to happen. But the challenge of restoring America's long-term fiscal integrity is what we've got to focus on. And we all need to accept this reality and the implications.”
David Langstaff, president and CEO of TASC Inc., at a press conference held by the Aerospace Industries Association on December 3, 2012