Friday, June 28th, 2019
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., supported a measure before the Senate to strengthen national security in the face of evolving global threats. The measure benefits our all-volunteer force of service members and their families and invests in Georgia’s military installations, including the nearly 90,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the state.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, S.1790, passed the U.S. Senate today by a vote of 86-8. The annual defense legislation builds on last year’s increased investments in readiness, modernization and benefits for our service members. It creates a sixth military service, the U.S. Space Force, to counter emerging threats in the space environment. It also prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from conducting another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in fiscal year 2020.
“We are keeping our promise to protect America as we strengthen our national defense, and this legislation accomplishes the goals the administration set forth to ensure we protect Americans and our vital national interests,” said Isakson. “We are helping our warfighters and their families, investing in the warfare of the future and fortifying global partnerships. Georgia’s strategic and active role in our national defense will receive needed support, and I will continue working to see these improvements through.”
The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act builds on the previous year’s pay raise for active duty troops with a 3.1% raise for members of the armed forces for fiscal year 2020.
The measure authorizes $18 billion for military construction, including housing for military families and members who live on base. In 2018, the Senate passed legislation Isakson introduced in response to a report on cases of lead poisoning at on-base housing. The legislation takes these issues into account and directs the Department of Defense to create a Military Tenant Bill of Rights, a clear and fair dispute resolution process for military tenants. It increases oversight of military contractors, enhances quality assurance and quality control measures, and authorizes more than $300 million for additional government personnel to oversee contractors on military installations while providing direct hiring authority for these positions.
It also improves the transferability of licensing for military spouses when their families are transferred to another state for new assignments, and it extends DOD’s ability to reimburse spouses for licensure and certification costs for another two years.
The legislation authorizes more than $200 million in funding for four major military construction projects in Georgia. The Aircraft Maintenance Hangar at Hunter Army Airfield is authorized at $62 million while the consolidated joint air dominance hangar at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, in Savannah, Ga., is authorized at $24 million. Phase three of the Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, in Warner Robins, Ga., is slated to receive $43 million, and the authorization includes $67 million for the Cyber Instructional Facility at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., home to the U.S. Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence and the future home of U.S. Army Cyber Command.
At Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., the authorization includes additional funding for Stryker lethality upgrades. It also directs a feasibility study on the establishment of a Robotic Development Center within the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence located there to advance emerging robotic and autonomous technologies for use on the battlefield.
The U.S. Army National Guard, including the Georgia Guard, which is headquartered at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Ga., received authorization for the procurement of 66 UH-60M Blackhawk aircraft and for modernization of its UH-60V Blackhawk helicopters.
At Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Marys, Ga., the authorization includes $1.8 billion for Columbia-class submarines, ensuring the fleet remains on track as it replaces the current Ohio-class fleet.
At Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, the measure requires the U.S. Marine Corps to address aging facilities and provide options on how it plans to increase throughput and efficiencies by adopting innovative processes and equipment solutions like automation, robotics and welding positions.
Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., will benefit from funding support for modernization and upgrades to the A-10C, including those in the 23rd Fighter Group located there, to help maintain the platform’s effectiveness through the 2030s.
At Robins Air Force Base, the authorization invests in the next generation Air Battle Management System, which the Air Force has announced will be hosted there and for which a hiring plan is already underway. Additionally, it provides an increase of $30 million above the president’s request for the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) mission to support next generation satellite communication radios and ensure capability during the mission change.
Also at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, the authorization supports ongoing disaster recovery efforts there and at other affected U.S. installations by increasing funding by $340 million.
As part of the cybersecurity strategy developed in response to the 2018 DOD Cyber Strategy and Cyber Posture Review, the bill authorizes more funding and authority to the Department of Defense to improve cyber capabilities and cybersecurity technology training. The increase in funding and authority will strengthen capability and capacity at Fort Gordon and help academic cyber institutes at colleges and universities ensure long-term dominance in cyber warfare. In addition, the bill increases funding for the Cyber Innovation Laboratory facility at Fort Gordon to improve training.
The authorization also supports the STARBASE youth program, which improves the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge and skills of students in kindergarten through grade 12, and includes locations in Savannah, Robins Air Force Base and Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga.
The total funding authorized for national defense will equal the president’s budget request of $750 billion. Specifically, S.1790 authorizes $741.6 billion for defense spending: $674 billion for the base budget and $76 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget. Authorized personnel end-strength numbers are 480,000 in the Army; 332,800 in the U.S. Air Force; 186,200 in the U.S. Marine Corps; and 340,500 in the U.S. Navy.
On May 23, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly 25-2 to advance this legislation to the Senate floor.
The U.S. House of Representatives is currently working on its own version of the National Defense Authorization Act, and the two measures will likely go to a joint House-Senate conference committee where negotiators will work out differences between the bills.