For the first time since Senator Tim Scott has been in the US Senate, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act BEFORE the end of the fiscal year. By a vote of 87-10, the Senate agreed to the Conference Report accompanying the John S. McCain Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA. As this follows last week’s House of Representatives vote, the bill is now headed to the President for signature.
The Conference Report can be found here and the Joint Explanatory Statement can be found here.
Senator Scott’s efforts as a conferee yielded some notable results. Of particular interest to the Charleston area, efforts to reduce funding for the US Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) product improvement program were defeated. Research and development funding for this program was restored, and a fence that would have restricted the expenditure of funds on the program until the Department submitted a particular report was removed. Procurement funds were also increased from where the Senate bill landed before conference.
In support of the Army National Guard, the Conference Report authorizes funding for six additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and five additional Blackhawk helicopters.
The House’s position on increasing funding for research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities by $10 million over the President’s budget request was adopted.
The House’s position on authorizing the Navy to procure an additional Ford-class aircraft carrier in conjunction with CVN-80 was adopted.
Also during Conference, Senator Scott continued to pressure his House counterparts on the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, or FIRRMA. The final version of this language is notably close to what was passed unanimously by the Senate Banking Committee, introduced as an NDAA amendment by Senator Scott, and adopted on a voice vote by SASC to become part of the NDAA. After the conference negotiations, FIRRMA does the following:
- It maintains the expansion of CFIUS jurisdiction to cover minority investments, any change in a foreign investor’s rights regarding a U.S. business, any vehicle designed to evade CFIUS, and the purchase, lease, or concession of certain real-estate by or to a foreign person.
- CFIUS retains the ability to review non-controlling, non-passive investments, especially those involving critical technology, critical infrastructure, and exposure of sensitive personal data.
- It maintains the changes to export control laws which address concerns about the transfer of technology through joint ventures and other arrangements, and it strengthens enforcement of export controls.
- Permits CFIUS to recommend technologies to the interagency process developed in the bill in order to identify emerging and critical technologies, and sets reporting requirements on these recommendations.
- It maintains mandatory declarations for transactions where a foreign government has a substantial interest and retains the Committee’s full discretion to craft mandatory declarations where a business involved in critical technology is a party to the transaction.
Senator Scott was also watching several provisions of interest to South Carolina as the bill moved through Conference, and we are pleased to report that almost all of them are included in the final bill:
- Funding for MILCON across South Carolina: $53 million for the MQ-9 Reaper mission control element at Shaw AFB; $35 million for range improvements and modernization at Parris Island; $52 million for trainee barracks upgrades at Fort Jackson. MCAS Beaufort is authorized $9.5 million for a recycling and hazardous waste facility, and $6.3 million for a cryogenics facility.
- Provides over $1.7 billion for the Savannah River Site, including $183 million for safeguards and security upgrades.
- Funds Naval Reactors at $1.8 billion to ensure this critical organization is able to support development of the new Columbia class submarine while also building additional Virginia class submarines.
- Adds an additional $500 million for amphibious ship procurement, accelerating acquisition of the LPD class ships. This is down slightly from the Senate’s original position, though a major increase over the House’s position.
- Provides funding to replace missiles expended in operations against Syria.
- Funds construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site and requires a non-Department of Energy affiliated Federally Funded Research and Development Center to report on a future mission at the Savannah River Site.
- Directs the Department of Defense to report on effective equipment to protect against traumatic brain injury in training and combat.
- Orders the Department of Defense to collaborate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on faster ways to reimburse states who call up their National Guard to respond to a domestic emergency.
Following the NDAA vote, the Senate headed into recess. It will reconvene on Tuesday August 14th. Sometime this month the Senate is expected to take up consideration of a “monster minibus” appropriations bill that combines Defense funding with Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services. We continue to hold out hope that DoD will not have to start FY 2019 under a CR.
Conference negotiations on H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill are underway at the staff level. As the House of Representatives is a week into their August recess and won’t return until September, don’t expect any major differences to be resolved until then. To refresh, this bill funds many of the changes made by the VA Mission Act. You may recall it passed the Senate on a vote of 92-5 and was signed into law by the President. In addition to providing another year’s worth of funding for VA Choice, the VA Mission Act streamlines access to non-VA community care, supports the use of commercial walk-in clinics, and expands the VA caregiver program to older generations of veterans. Supported by 38 veterans service organizations, the bill gradually phases out the arbitrary measures used by VA Choice (the 30 day wait or driving distance of at least 40 miles) to access non-VA physicians.
Speaking of Veterans, Senator Scott is planning an event in Columbia, SC to recognize women Veterans and their critical contributions over the years. Stay tuned for more information, but this event will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. Women joined the military in large numbers (over 35,000) during World War I, and deployed to Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces. More than 400 died in Europe. Six were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism.
With the NDAA on its way to the President, and Defense appropriations hopefully to be done soon, my attention this fall will be on preparing for the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA. I welcome your input on critical issues facing our military and the Department of Defense as we head into fall.
Military Legislative Assistant
Office of Senator Tim Scott
717 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510