Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report on a bipartisan 377 to 48 vote. Alabama Congress members Bradley Byrne, Terri Sewell, Mike Rogers, and Mo Brooks all supported the final version of the NDAA and released statements on passage of the legislation.
“This bipartisan bill is a huge win for our troops, national security, and Alabama. I applaud the conferees for removing House Democrats’ numerous unrelated “partisan wish list” add-ons that prevented me from supporting the previously-passed House NDAA,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said. “Providing for the common defense is one of our most important duties in Congress, and it was time the Democrats stopped playing political games with our troops.”
“From the men and women serving at Maxwell Air Force Base and at the 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery, to the shipbuilding industry in Mobile and the missile defense efforts in Huntsville, Alabama plays a major part in our national security,” Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) said. “I am proud to have represented our state in conference with my colleagues. We delivered a smart, bipartisan defense bill that improves campaign election security, makes good on our promises to military widows and authorizes funding to equip, supply and train U.S. troops and support military families at home and abroad.
Rep. Sewell was selected by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to represent House Democrats on the conference committee that drafted the compromise National Defense Authorization Act Conference Report.
The NDAA establishes the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the U.S. Air Force. This was a top priority for Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and President Donald J. Trump (R). Space Force is the first new branch of the military since 1947. It also recognizes space as a warfighting domain and authorizes the transfer of Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force.
“I was ecstatic that the project my friend Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and I have been working on for several years is finally becoming a reality,” Rogers said. “This is an important step for our national security. Our adversaries are moving quickly in space and this new service will allow us to quickly realign our resources and efforts towards countering them. I am also pleased we continued the 58-year streak of passing a NDAA to ensure our military is fully funded. This year’s NDAA includes many other significant policy provisions that are important not only to our national security, but also our brave men and women in uniform.”
Rogers is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and was a conferee on the report.
“The FY20 NDAA House-Senate compromise bill is vastly superior to the original House version opposed by a bipartisan Senate and the White House,” Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said. “This compromise NDAA enhances America’s national security by: authorizing $738 billion in defense funding; establishing the U.S. Space Force as a sixth Armed Service of the United States (which improves America’s ability to acquire, operate, and defend space-based assets); adequately authorizing funding for the development of all three legs of the nuclear triad; reversing efforts to eliminate funding for the deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons; and, increasing funding for development of hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, and next-generation helicopters; to name a few.”
Brooks said that, “The FY20 NDAA House-Senate compromise bill improves the quality of life of America’s servicemembers by: giving troops a 3.1% pay raise; phasing out the Widow’s Tax; addressing the military housing crisis and requiring the services to establish a Tenant Bill of Rights; and, doubling the reimbursement amount for state licensure expenses for military spouses, who face unique career challenges when they move across state lines and often must pay substantial sums to requalify for nearly identical licenses.”
“This NDAA enables us to rebuild military readiness, allows for continued counter drug enforcement at our border, preserves President Trump’s transgender troop ban, accelerates programs to counter Chinese and Russian aggression, and authorizes important bipartisan nuclear modernization programs,” Byrne added. “Importantly, this bill gives our troops a 3.1 percent pay raise, the largest increase in a decade, and repeals the widow’s tax, a goal I’ve worked towards for many years. It also establishes the Space Force, a priority of President Trump’s that is expected to bring high-paying jobs to Alabama. And I’m particularly pleased this bill maintains long-standing prohibitions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. since my efforts to preserve this ban were blocked earlier in the year.
The NDAA included several provisions that Sewell authored and including language to improve federal campaign election security. Specifically, the legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to work with the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make available an advisory report on foreign counter-intelligence and cybersecurity threats to election campaigns for federal offices. It require the DNI work jointly to publish a summary of best practices that federal campaigns can employ to counter such threats. In the event that Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis jointly determine that a federal election campaign is subject to a heightened foreign counterintelligence or cybersecurity threat, the provision would allow them to make available additional information to those campaigns to help thwart outside interference.
Sewell also authored authorization for increased intelligence funding for combatant commanders and our growing strategic competition with China, Russia and other malign actors as well as a continued commitment to promoting increased diversity within the Intelligence Community’s workforce.
“The original House-passed NDAA, that every Republican opposed, included a number of open-border provisions that would have undermined our efforts to secure the Southwest border,” Rogers said. “I’m pleased Democrats dropped their unreasonable demands that would have tied President Trump’s hands by limiting funding for the border wall and restricting the use of DoD assistance.”
Brooks said, “I am pleased by the success my office had in helping to successfully insert into the compromise NDAA the following provisions that are beneficial to America and Redstone Arsenal, including but not limited to: $38 million authorized for construction of an Aircraft and Flight Equipment Building on Redstone Arsenal; $40 million authorized for construction of a new air traffic control tower and airport terminal on Kwajalein Atoll; additional $161.6 million authorized for the Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (located on Redstone Arsenal) for hypersonic weapons development; additional $108 million authorized for the development of the Missile Defense Agency’s Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor layer to detect and track hypersonic threats; additional $2.5 million authorized to develop next generation small satellites; additional $7 million authorized for new hypersonic weapons testing facilities; fully reverses the House Democrats’ $50 million authorization cut to the Army Future Command’s Assured Position, Navigation, and Timing Cross-functional Team’s efforts to develop their Low Earth Orbit space architecture; and, additional $75 million authorized to develop Future Vertical Lift platforms.”
“With this bill’s passage, we can continue President Trump’s mission to rebuild our military might and arm our fighting men and women with the resources they need to combat threats around the globe,” Byrne said. “The NDAA contains many important benefits to Alabama: Authorizes one Guided Missile Frigate FFG(X) contract which Austal will compete to build in Mobile, including language secured by Byrne reiterating and instructing that cost is a critical factor in the competition. Supports the conversion of Expeditionary Fast Transport ships into medical ships at Austal’s Mobile shipbuilding facility. Authorizes $12 million for a new Army National Guard Readiness Center in Foley. Authorizes $249.2 million for Stryker Combat Vehicle Lethality Upgrades to take place in Anniston. Supports missile defense programs in Huntsville and Troy as well as cyber and hypersonic weapons advancements. Authorizes $34 million for the Enlisted Transient Training Barracks at Fort McClellan Army National Guard Training Center in Anniston. Authorizes $151.6 million for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Helicopter Modernization Program and the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft that Bell Helicopter will compete to build in Ozark.”
“Perhaps as important as what’s in the House-Senate NDAA is what is not in the bill”, Brooks said. “The bill does not cut border security funding. To be blunt, more Americans have died as a result of America’s porous southern border than have been killed in any American military conflict, with the possible exceptions of World War II and the Civil War. Border security is national security. I’m pleased the House-Senate compromise NDAA doesn’t hinder President Trump’s ability to secure America’s southern border and save American lives.”
The bipartisan, bicameral conference report authorizes $738 billion for defense spending for FY 2020.
With House passage, the NDAA conference report now awaits a final Senate vote before going to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Mark McDaniel reappointed to NASA Human Exploration and Operations Advisory Committee
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced Thursday NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s reappointment of Huntsville’s Mark McDaniel to a two-year term on the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.
Brooks initially recommended McDaniel in 2018 to Bridenstine. Bridenstine is a personal friend and former House colleague of Brooks. Brooks cited McDaniel’s past record of exemplary service on the NASA Advisory Council. The NAC is NASA’s highest civilian advisory board.
“Mark McDaniel has done an exemplary job advising NASA on its future missions as a member of NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee,” Brooks said, praising the decision. “Mark’s past service and qualifications make him an excellent choice for reappointment to another term on the committee. I congratulate Mark on his reappointment.”
“I greatly appreciate my friend NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for his thoughtful consideration in reappointing Mark McDaniel,” Brooks continued. “Jim’s leadership at NASA has been exemplary, and I am glad he recognized Mark’s contributions to this important NASA advisory committee.”
“Mark McDaniel has been a dedicated member of the NAC for several years, and we look forward to him continuing to provide his expertise to the Committee,” said Bridenstine. “As we prepare to go forward to the Moon and beyond, it is critical that NASA has top experts like Mark on our team. His wealth of knowledge is a great benefit to the Artemis program, as well as our mission to send human explorers to Mars.”
“Congressman Mo Brooks has provided great leadership to our nation, state and NASA,” McDaniel said. “I thank Congressman Brooks for recommending my reappointment to the NASA Advisory Council- Human Exploration and Operations Committee.”
“I am confident that under the leadership of Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the tremendous team he has put together, our nation will put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024,” McDaniel added. “Under Administrator Bridenstine’s leadership NASA is setting the stage for human exploration of Mars and the heavens beyond.”
Then-NASA administrator Daniel Goldin appointed McDaniel to the NASA Advisory Council in October 2000, and then-NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe reappointed McDaniel to the council in November 2002 and November 2004. During McDaniel’s tenure on the NAC, President George W. Bush announced the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative,” which set the nation on a more aggressive pace for space exploration.
On Jan. 26, 2007, McDaniel received the NASA Public Service Medal for his “Leadership and Council to America’s Space Agency, his advocacy of Human Space Flight and Exploration and dedication to the Aerospace Community at large.”
Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. NASA and its contractors are a major employer in the 5th District.
Jones bill aimed at bringing jobs back from China included in Senate NDAA
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act will include a bipartisan proposal he sponsored last month to incentivize investments in American semiconductor manufacturing businesses instead of Chinese-owned companies.
The provision was approved in the Senate on Tuesday in a 96 to 4 vote as an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA.
“We all know that China is a bad actor on the world stage, which is why it is so crucial that the United States continues to lead the world in semiconductor technology,” Jones said. “Not only will this provision help bring jobs back from China, it will incentivize investment in Alabama companies and will strengthen our national security by reducing reliance on foreign manufacturing.”
The Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center at Auburn University is a world leader in microelectrics engineering, and with 15 semiconductor companies in Alabama, the state stands to benefit substantially from increased investment in American semiconductor manufacturing.
Semiconductors are used in a large variety of electronic devices including smartphones, digital cameras, televisions and some computers. While the U.S. revolutionized the microelectronic industry and invented nearly all the key technology used to this day, competitors in China have made huge investments into their microelectronics industries in recent years to challenge and undercut U.S. leadership.
By 2030, Asia is projected to control 83 percent of the global semiconductor manufacturing supply while domestic production could be less than 10 percent. Jones said that if this were to happen, it would make the U.S. reliant on foreign-made microelectronics and would potentially pose huge risks to U.S. national and economic security.
The Jones amendment would direct the secretary of commerce to create a grant program for constructing, expanding or modernizing commercial semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, packaging and advanced R&D facilities in the U.S.
It would also direct the secretary of defense to create a partnership program with the private sector to encourage the development of advanced, measurably secure microelectronics for use by the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, critical infrastructure and other national-security applications.
The amendment also requires the secretary of commerce to commence a review within 120 days assessing the state of the U.S. semiconductor industrial base. It establishes a Multilateral Microelectronics Security Fund, with which the U.S., its allies and partners will work to reach agreements promoting consistency in their policies related to microelectronics, greater transparency including supply chains and greater alignment in export control and foreign direct investment policies.
The amendment would direct the president to establish a subcommittee on semiconductor technology and innovation within the National Science and Technology Council and directs the secretary of commerce to establish a national semiconductor technology center to conduct research, fund semiconductor startups and a Manufacturing USA Institute.
Finally, the amendment creates a National Advance Packaging Manufacturing Program, and encourages the secretary of labor to work with the private sector on workforce training and apprenticeships in semiconductor manufacturing.
The House passed its own version of the NDAA on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to pass their version of the NDAA in the next few days. A conference committee will then be formed to address differences between the two bills in hopes of reaching a compromise version that will pass both chambers of Congress.
Jones faces former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Nov. 3 general election.
Byrne praises House passage of NDAA authorizing additional Austal ship
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the William “Mac” Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 by a vote of 295 to 125. Congressman Bradley Byrne is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which passed an earlier version of the NDAA on July 1, 2020, by a vote of 56 to 0.
The bill includes an amendment authored by Byrne authorizing $260 million to construct an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel at Austal Mobile. This year’s NDAA is named for Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who chaired the committee during the 114th and 115th Congresses.
“The men and women of our Armed Services deserve our complete support, and I’m pleased that the House came together in a largely bipartisan manner to give our warfighters the resources necessary to protect us,” Byrne said. “Both in committee and on the House floor, all Members provided input to strengthen this bill, a practice that occurs far too little in today’s House. While I do not agree with everything in the bill, it remains worthy of support, and I’m hopeful that some of the partisan provisions added on the House floor will be removed through compromise with the Senate.”
Byrne said the additional Austal ship is important for Southwest Alabama.
“Importantly for Southwest Alabama, this bill passed with my amendment to authorize the construction of an additional EPF at the Austal shipyard in Mobile,” Byrne said. “I appreciate my Congressional colleagues for acknowledging Austal and the EPF’s importance to our national defense and for their support of the work performed by the 4,000 skilled men and women at Austal Mobile. Construction of this world-class vessel will move us even closer to the Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet.”
The NDAA sets policy and authorizes funding for the entire United States military and has been passed by the House each year for the previous 59 years. The Senate is currently considering its own version of the NDAA.
Byrne pointed out several highlights from this year’s NDAA including that it adheres to last year’s bipartisan budget agreement and fully funds the Trump administration’s request.
The bill includes $740.5 billion total for National Defense Discretionary programs, including $130.6 billion for procurement of advanced weapons systems and $106.2 billion for Research Development Test and Evaluation. The bill also funds a vital nuclear modernization programs to ensure that nuclear deterrent is safe and reliable. It fully funds the B-21 bomber, a new Columbia Class submarine along with an additional attack submarine, and begins work on the W93 warhead that will be critical to meet STRATCOM Commander requirements for the sea-based deterrent.
Byrne says the NDAA also takes a tough stance on China by laying the foundation for an Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative to deter China, modeled on the European Deterrence Initiative. The NDAA increases funding in emergent technologies, such as AI, to maintain a technical edge against China, and starts taking financial actions to pursue China’s graduation from the World Bank and greater transparency with China’s debt.
Byrne said that the NDAA provides support for troops and families, including a 3 percent pay raise.
Byrne said that the bill also deals with the COVID-19 response. It ensures that the Department of Defense has the diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities, and personal protective equipment necessary to protect our Armed Forces. It requires the National Security Strategy to address the provision of drugs, biologics, vaccines and other critical medical equipment to ensure combat readiness and force health protection.
Byrne said that the NDAA includes almost $600 million above the President’s Budget Request for science and technology and investments in critical emerging technology areas including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and biotechnology.
The bill changed considerably on the floor of the House. Some GOP Congressmen including Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, voted for the bill in committee and against the bill on the House floor because of some of those changes. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the bill unless changes to the bill are made before it reaches his desk.
The Senate and House versions will go to a conference committee where a compromise version will be drafted that can pass both Houses.
Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is leaving Congress at the end of the year.
Aderholt critical of Democrats’ NASA budget proposal
Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, was critical of a Democratic-sponsored spending bill that level funds NASA at 2020 levels for Fiscal Year 2021.
“One of my greatest duties in Congress is serving as a member on the House Committee on Appropriations and as Ranking Member on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee,” Aderholt said in a statement to constituents. “As a member of these two bodies, it is my responsibility to diligently review the upcoming fiscal year spending bill. This year, NASA has been a huge topic, especially with the Artemis missions and President Trump’s request for an increase in the space programs budget.”
Aderholt said he thought it was a “mistake” to not give NASA more money this year.
“Space exploration and carrying Moon missions as well as planning for Mars missions spurs amazing innovations in the private sector,” Aderholt said. “Maintaining our leadership in space is also a national security issue. Overall, we are able to partner with other nations, but we must never be in a position of not controlling our own fate in space. That’s why I criticized the Democrats spending plan during a subcommittee bill markup this week and advocated for President Trump’s increased budget request for NASA. There is much our two parties can agree on with regards to the space program, and I look forward to continuing working on the space budget as this year’s legislative process continues.”
President Donald Trump had requested a 12 percent increase to the NASA budget. Much of that money would have gone to funding the Space Launch System and the Artemis mission to the Moon. House Democrats have proposed a zero percent increase.
“The flat NASA allocation reveals a determination to rebuke America’s moon-to-Mars Artemis initiative,” said Aderholt, the ranking member of the CJS subcommittee. “President Trump rightly wants more funding to reenergize America’s leadership in space, so much so he’s willing to pay for it within an overall austere budget request, and we should follow that lead.”
NASA is targeting 6:50 a.m. CST Thursday, July 30, for the launch of its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission is designed to better understand the geology and climate of Mars and seek signs of ancient life on the Red Planet using the robotic scientist, which weighs just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms) and is the size of a small car.
The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions. It also will test new technologies to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars. Perseverance is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA hopes to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through the Artemis program.
Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.