This bill — the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 — would authorize $731.6 billion in discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021, of which $662.6 billion would go to the base budget and $69 billion to Overseas Contingency Operations. An additional $9 billion in mandatory funding would also be authorized. An in-depth summary of how its various provisions impact troops, military families, equipment, the Dept. of Defense (DOD), and various aspects of U.S. defense policy can be found below.
Troops & Families: This section would fully fund a 3% pay raise for the military and reauthorize bonuses & special pay. It would authorize an active-duty end strength of 1,345,205 — including 485,900 in the Army; 347,800 in the Navy; 184,100 in the Marine Corps; 327,266 in the Air Force; and 6,434 in the Space Force.
Professional development opportunities for military spouses would be continued, as would DOD efforts to provide families with affordable childcare. DOD initiatives to track & report incidents of child abuse on military installations would be improved. Oversight of privatized housing would be increased, and service secretaries would be prohibited from leasing substandard family housing.
Equipment & Construction: The acquisition & modernization of several key defense technologies would be stepped up under this bill, including:
$10.3 billion to procure 79 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
$22.3 billion for shipbuilding, including for Columbia-class & Virginia-class submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships.
Funding would be increased for test materials, prototyping, and planning of hypersonic weapons development.
The B-21 Raider and VC-25B presidential aircraft recapitalization would be fully funded.
Additionally, this bill would prohibit divestment of A-10 Warthog aircraft, delay divestment of certain refueling & intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.
Nuclear Deterrence: This section would improve DOD coordination, insight, and participation in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) budget development process, and improve transparency of the NNSA budget for Congress & the public.
Space: This section would make technical changes needed to continue implementation of the Space Force; continue development of the space technology base including launch vehicles and responsive launch; and authorize increased funding for space domain awareness, launch development, and space-based surveillance capability. The Space Force would continue working with research institutions to establish critical research infrastructure and develop the future workforce.
The European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) would be fully funded and enhanced to support rotational forces in Europe. The DOD would be prohibited from using any funds to reduce air base resiliency or demolish protected aircraft shelters in the European theater without creating similar protection, or to close or return existing airbases to host nations until the DOD certifies that there’s no need for a rotational military presence in the European theater.
Restrictions on military-to-military cooperation with Russia and any activities that would recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea would be extended.
This bill would require federal agencies to develop a whole-of-government strategy for exercising diplomatic, informational, military, and economic power in competition with China.
The DOD would be required to submit a report on the military and defense implications of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative in Africa and a strategy to address impacts on U.S. military and defense interests in Africa.
Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative:
$3.58 billion would be authorized for the Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative to optimize the presence of U.S. forces in the region, strengthening and maintaining bilateral & multilateral military exercises with U.S. allies and partners; improving infrastructure & prepositioning of equipment and materiel; and improving defense & security capabilities & cooperation between the U.S. and its allies & partners.
This bill would prohibit the use of funds to reduce the number of active duty service members deployed to South Korea below 28,500 until 180 days after the DOD Secretary certifies that doing so is in the U.S. national interest; is commensurate with a reduction in the risk posed by North Korea; that South Korea is capable of deterring a conflict; and U.S. allies (including South Korea and Japan) have been appropriately consulted.
This bill would continue to mandate and support funding for a space sensor layer that is capable of tracking both advanced ballistic and hypersonic missile threats, and fund the development of sensor payload through the Missile Defense Agency.
It would also increase funding for Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) and Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) programs due to acquisition delays.
Alliances & Partnerships: This section would aim to develop & strengthen mutually beneficial alliances & partnerships as part of the National Defense Strategy, and would specifically:
Authorize $3.5 billion to fund the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), including their training, equipping, and sustainment.
Extend the Afghan Special Immigrant Visas program, which allows Afghans (and their families) whose service to the U.S. government puts them at great risk from the Taliban to immigrate to the U.S.
Express commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, which assures Taiwan of U.S. military support to ensure it has self-defense capabilities needed to resist any use of force or other form of coercion that would jeopardize its security, in addition to calling for deepened bilateral ties with Taiwan.
Provide $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine, require a long-term plan for assistance to Ukraine, and support NATO designation of Ukraine as an “enhanced opportunities partner.”
Provide assistance to Iraq and to vetted Syrian groups & individuals to counter the threat posed by ISIS, and continue efforts to transition security assistance to standing assistance authorities in Iraq.
The deployment of military personnel to the southern border would require a certification that it will have no impact to readiness; that deployed personnel skills & unit missions align with support tasks required; includes a report on readiness levels and impacted training events for deployed units; and expands reporting requirements about the mission of personnel deployed and the cost of support provided to Customs and Border Protection.
This bill would prohibit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to four countries with ungoverned spaces, including Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. However, it wouldn’t restrict other detainee transfers.
This bill would maintain funding for Stars and Stripes at FY2020 levels and require the DOD to report to Congress with a business case analysis to maintain Stars and Stripes as an information benefit to servicemembers.
This bill would require a study on the effect of allowing military spouses to contribute or make eligible retirement account transfers to the military Thrift Savings Plan.
This bill would prohibit the display of the Confederate battle flag at U.S. military installations.
A Pandemic Preparedness and Resilience National Security Fund would be created and funded with $1 billion to proactively improve the country’s ability to respond to future pandemics. It would also organize efforts to maintain the defense industrial base, supplies of critical national security materials, and authorize the DOD to enter into transactions with small businesses that help meet essential operational needs.
- This bill would require a DOD panel to complete the renaming of designated facilities within one year of this bill's enactment. Renaming preferences would include a battlefield victory consistent with current DOD conventions; a deceased member of the Armed Forces who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was recognized for heroism in combat or other significant contributions, was a member of a minority group who overcame prejudice & adversity, has links to the community or state where the base is located, or served at the installation. Other considerations would include a preference for junior servicemembers, members of the same branch who represent the majority of current servicemembers at a base, servicemembers who were involved in conflicts since 1917, and those whose personal conduct reflects Armed Forces values.
This legislation is named after House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member William “Mac” Thornberry (R-TX), who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term. Thornberry served as chairman of the committee from 2015-2019 and has been a member of Congress since 1995.