Federal Relations

December 4, 2014

NDAA Sent to Senate

The House passed HR 3979 the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 300-119. The Senate is expected to take up and pass the measure next week.

The measure, which must be passed annually, authorizes all Pentagon and defense-related programs for the fiscal year. In FY15, the measure authorizes $577.1 billion for the Pentagon and defense-related programs for FY 2015, of which $63.7 billion is war-related funding — including $5.1 billion requested by the president to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Defense spending continues to account for well over 50% of overall federal discretionary spending.

The bill extends the administration’s authority to train and equip Syrian rebels fighting both ISIS and the Assad regime and authorizes funding to help train the Iraqi Army in its fight against ISIS. It includes new provisions to combat sexual assault in the military, continues restrictions on the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees and allows the Pentagon to slightly reduce servicemembers’ housing allowances and impose a small copay for prescription drugs. It also includes a major package of non-defense-related land management provisions, including an appropriation for the PILT program and provisions creating new National Park units.

Additionally, the legislation includes strong language on increasing military cyber security.  These efforts come in the wake of two years of leaks from Defense Department insiders and cyberattacks on both the department and its contractors, including Manning and Snowden.

The measure would require the Defense Department to report back to Congress by March 2015 on its efforts to build both interim and long-term capabilities to continuously evaluate the security status of employees with access to classified information. Another provision in the bill is directly linked to a report the Senate Armed Services Committee released in September detailing what congressional leaders called a disturbing lack of communication on cyberattacks between agencies.

Additionally, the bill would add cybersecurity to the department’s list of major force programs. The department groups certain activities into those groups for budgeting and mission planning — the current list includes programs such as special operations, mobility forces and guard and reserve forces. Breaking cybersecurity out into its own major force would serve a symbolic move to show that the issue has been elevated to a high priority for the department.