Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 31 No. 20
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Weapons Complex Monitor
Article 9 of 19
May 15, 2020

Senate Panel Hopes to Pass NDAA by July 4

By Dan Leone

The Senate Armed Services Committee thinks its version of the annual policy-shaping National Defense Authorization Act (NSAA) could pass the upper chamber before the Fourth of July holiday, a committee aide confirmed Monday afternoon.

Politico reported this week that the GOP-controlled panel plans to mark up its version of the bill the week of June 8. Unlike the House, which marks up its iteration of the annual legislation in a marathon open session, the Senate typically speeds through the process behind closed doors.

The NDAA sets policy and spending limits for defense programs, including nuclear weapons programs managed outside the Pentagon by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The bill also authorizes funding for most of the legacy nuclear-weapon cleanup managed by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.

The House Armed Services Committee still had not scheduled the full markup of its NDAA, at deadline Friday. Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) once hoped to have at least the pre-mark language finished this month.

“The legislative language for the FY21 NDAA will be made public when the subcommittee and Chairman’s marks are released,” a committee spokesperson wrote in an email Monday. “Mark up hearings will be scheduled once we receive a floor date from House Leadership.”

The Senate returned to Washington, D.C., last week after an extended recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The House has not yet reconvened.

Last week, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said that any financial aid to help the defense industry mitigate the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response should be in addition to funds authorized in the 2021 NDAA. That position could put him at odds with Smith.

Thornberry favors maxing out the 2021 NDAA to $740 billion: the level approved by Congress and the White House last year in a bipartisan budget agreement that did away with the final two years of spending sequestration cuts from 2011.

In first-quarter earnings reports filed this month, major defense contractors such as Huntington Ingalls Industries and Jacobs have said existing COVID-19 bailout money, and the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing contractors for pandemic-response costs, might not offset every expense associated with the viral disease going forward.

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