(UPDATED 12/6/20) This bill has been amended by Congress to serve as the bipartisan conference report for the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization package. It initially served as the legislative vehicle for the House version of the bill, which was merged with the Senate’s version by the conference committee. In its current form, the bill would authorize $731.6 billion in discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021, of which $662.1 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 to bring the overall topline authorization to $740.5 billion. A summary of how the various provisions in the conference report 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, increase hazardous duty pay by 10%, and reauthorize more than 30 types of bonuses and special pay. It would authorize an active-duty end strength of 1,348,375 including 485,900 in the Army; 347,800 in the Navy; 180,000 in the Marine Corps; and 333,475 in the Air Force. The bill would include the Space Force within the Air Force end strength, require the DOD to request a Space Force end strength in the FY2022 budget request, and direct the DOD to provide recommendations on the preferred organizational structure of Space Force reserve components.
This section would also expand the My Career Advancement Account Program, make improvements to the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Program, and allow for the reimbursement of costs incurred to maintain professional licenses and credentials when permanently changing station, including an additional $2.5 million for re-licensing expenses.
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:
$9.1 billion to procure 93 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, an additional 14 above the president’s budget request. Additionally, the Air Force would be allowed to utilize, modify, and operate six Turkish F-35s that were never delivered because of Turkey’s suspension from the F-35 program.
Funding for nine battle force ships and contract authority for Columbia-class & Virginia-class submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, plus America and San Antonio-class amphibious assault ships.
Funding would be increased for test materials, prototyping, and planning of hypersonic weapons development, in addition to hypersonic weapon defenses.
Nuclear Deterrence: This section would fund the sustainment and modernization of the nuclear deterrent, including Nuclear National Security Administration (NNSA) weapons programs and infrastructure; DOD submarines, ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft, and command and control systems; as well as nuclear non-proliferation activities.
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 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs would be directed to report on the space-related missions and expertise within each service that should remain within each service and whether they require organized or liased Space Force personnel. The transfer of military installations would be prohibited prior to congressional defense committees receiving an analysis from the Secretary of the Air Force.
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.
- DOD would be required to report on Russian support to racially & ethnically motivated violent extremist groups & networks in Europe & the U.S. that pose national security threats, are involved in information warfare, and increase risks to societal stability & democratic institutions.
- Restrictions on military-to-military cooperation with Russia and any activities that would recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea would be extended. The DOD limitations on providing sensitive missile defense information to Russia and on the integration of U.S. missile defense systems into Russia’s would be extended.
- Sanctions would be expanded related to the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
- The DOD would assess the value, cost, and feasibility of increased U.S. military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.
- Turkey would be subject to mandatory sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for acquiring and operating Russia’s S-400 air missile defense system.
- Authority for DOD training of Eastern European national security forces in multilateral exercise would be extended.
- This bill would protect federal investments in defense-sensitive intellectual property, technology, and data acquisition from China by creating mechanisms to restrict employees or former employees of the defense industrial base from working directly for companies owned or directed by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); require universities to share information on defense-funded research; limit funding for universities with Confucius Institutes; and require disclosure of external funding for grant recipients.
- The president would create a whole-of-government strategy to impose costs on the PRC to deter industrial espionage and the large-scale theft of personal information by the PRC.
- A continuous assessment activity would be established for the industrial bases of foreign adversaries, beginning with China.
- Chinese military companies operating in the U.S. would be publicly reported in the Federal Register.
- The U.S. would pursue the graduation of China from receiving World Bank assistance.
- The DOD and a Federally Funded Research and Development Center would be tasked with comprehensive comparative studies of the notoriously opaque Chinese and Russian defense budgets.
Pacific Deterrence Initiative: This section would establish the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) to send a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is deeply committed to defending its interests in the Indo-Pacific region. It would authorize $2.2 billion for PDI in FY2021 for missile defense, enhanced forward posture, and improving interoperability with allies & partners. The PDI would specifically aim to:
Improve the lethality of the Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific, including by improving active & passive defense against theater cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles for bases, operating locations, and other critical infrastructure.
Enhance the design & posture of the Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific by transitioning from large, centralized, and unhardened infrastructure to smaller, dispersed, resilient, and adaptive basing; increasing the capabilities of expeditionary airfields & ports; enhancing pre-positioning of forward stocks of fuel, munitions, equipment, and material; and improving logistics & maintenance capabilities in the region.
Strengthen alliances & partnerships to increase capabilities, improve interoperability & information sharing, and support information operations capabilities with a focus on countering malign influence.
- This bill would support missile defense programs, including Long-Range Precision Fires and Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) priorities of the Army such as Precision Strike Missile, Hyper-Velocity Projectiles, Lower-Tier Air Missile Defense Sensor, High-Energy Lasers, Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2, and the IAMD Battle Command System.
- The DOD would compile a classified report on the integrated air and missile defense; counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM); and Counter-Unmanned Aircraft posture in the CENTCOM area.
- This bill would ensure the Air Force and Army coordinate their efforts to defend air bases and prepositioned sites outside the continental U.S. from current and emerging missile threats.
Alliances & Partnerships: This section would aim to develop & strengthen mutually beneficial alliances & partnerships as part of the National Defense Strategy, and would specifically:
- Authorize $4 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund & require an assessment of the Afghan government’s progress on shared security goals & fulfillment of commitments under the joint declaration on bringing peace to Afghanistan. It would also extend & modify support for the Afghan government’s reconciliation activities to ensure it’s only provided for activities including the Afghan government and don’t restrict the participation of women. An interagency assessment would be required to reduce U.S. personnel levels in Afghanistan below 4,000 or current levels, and again before drawing down below 2,000.
- 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.”
- Reaffirm commitments to and support for allies and partners including Taiwan, the Baltic states, Japan, India, and Vietnam.
- Prohibit reducing the number of servicemembers deployed to South Korea below 28,500 unless certifications and requirements are met.
- Prohibit DOD’s ability to reduce the number of active-duty servicemembers in Germany below 34,500 until an assessment on its impact has been completed.
- Allow participation of DOD personnel in the European Center of Excellence for Counter Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, Finland.
- Provide assistance to Iraq and to vetted Syrian groups & individuals to counter the threat posed by ISIS, and emphasize support to Syrian Democratic Support for the humane detention & repatriation of foreign terrorist fighters, and continue efforts to transition security assistance to standing assistance authorities in Iraq.
- Authorize funding for the Missile Defense Agency’s cooperative programs with Israel in line with the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.
A commission would be established to study and provide recommendations concerning the removal of names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that commemorate the Confederate States of America. The commission would develop an implementation plan, cost estimate, and criteria for renaming, among other procedures. It would allow the renaming of any base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, place, weapon, equipment or other DOD property. The implementation plan would include a plan for collecting & incorporating local sensitivities associated with naming or renaming DOD assets, and would go into effect three years after the enactment of this legislation. The bill would exempt grave markers (not monuments) from the removal, and the commission would further define what constitutes a grave marker. The commission would have $2 million in funding to conduct its study and provide recommendations.
This bill would prohibit the display of the Confederate battle flag at U.S. military installations.
The DOD would develop a strategy for pandemic preparedness and response. DOD would be required to maintain a 30-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) sufficient for every active and reserve servicemember, and ensure that DOD’s medical laboratories have the technology needed to facilitate rapid research and development of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics in case of future pandemic.
This bill would restrict foreign military students’ access to U.S. military bases, including their possession of weapons, in response to the attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December 2019.
This bill would continue long-standing prohibitions on transferring Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) detainees to the U.S. or other countries, constructing or modifying new detention centers to house GTMO detainees in the U.S., and on closing or relinquishing control of GTMO.
Funding would be maintained for Stars and Stripes at FY2020 levels, and a report detailing a business case analysis of continued operation of the publication would be required.
- The DOD would be prohibited from transferring bayonets, grenades (other than stun & flash-bang grenades), weaponized tracked combat vehicles, and weaponized drones to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
- This bill would establish a grant program to incentivize the manufacturing of semiconductors to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. entities and national security. The grant program would require manufacturers to meet certain requirements, such as employing economically disadvantaged individuals.
- This bill would increase funding for a study by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention related to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination in drinking water.
- This bill would add Parkinson's disease, bladder cancer, hypertension, and hypothyroidism to the list of veterans' diseases covered by a presumption of service connection to herbicides (like Agent Orange) used during the Vietnam War.
- This bill would require the DOD to include an element in annual cybersecurity reports addressing work with academic consortia on high priority cybersecurity research activities.
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.