The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday will hold its annual defense authorization bill mark-up — a day-long legislative marathon that’s expected to cover a host of hot-button national security policy issues.
The committee released the full bill prior to the May 8 markup. From the full language, here are seven items to keep an eye on that might affect major changes in procurement, organizational structure or programs relevant to C4ISR and networks:
1. Fourth Estate. HASC Chair Mac Thornberry eased his controversial proposal for a 25 percent cut to Pentagon support agencies, tagged the “fourth estate” for their ancillary relationship to war fighting.
Rather than shuttering agencies and otherwise prescribing cuts as initially suggested, the bill gives more deference to the Pentagon. It would charge the newly created DoD chief management officer to find efficiencies and reduce by 25 percent the budget of certain departmentwide activities, including logistics, human resources, services contracting and real property management, by 2021.
This may yet be a friction point on Wednesday. Though HASC Democrats have panned the blanket cut as “unnecessary sequester-like” in Democrats’ own bill summary, a GOP aide defended it, saying, “You’re basically talking about the bureaucracy for the bureaucracy.”
2. JEDI battle. The bill would fence half the funds for the Pentagon’s move to a commercial cloud until it delivers a report that explains its decision to award a sole-source contract for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, that could give the winner a de facto monopoly in perpetuity. Critics have said only Amazon or Google can truly compete for the work, given how the contract is to be formulated.
DoD Comptroller David Norquist told lawmakers at a recent Senate hearing a required report justifying the sole-source vehicle would be submitted this week. DoD officials have defended the contracting vehicle as necessary for security reasons and said that multiple companies can team up.
3. Space Force. Space Force does not appear in the bill by name, but the legislation does recycle a provision from last year’s effort that would establish a sub-unified command under U.S. Strategic Command for carrying out joint space war-fighting.
It would also both establish a new numbered Air Force responsible for space war-fighting and mandate the Air Force develop and implement a plan to increase the size of its space cadre. It would also mandate a special acquisition lane for space.
The measure comes as President Trump has repeatedly teased a “space force” as a new military branch, reversing course on an idea Pentagon leaders opposed in last year’s NDAA. A related study mandated by the FY18 NDAA is due in weeks.
4. SATCOM report. While the bill points out it supports the Department of Defense’s request for multiyear procurement authority for commercial satellite communication technology to include improvements in capacity and performance in contested environments, the committee is directing a report from the secretary by December 1, 2018, to address various components involved in the future of SATCOM.
They include the costs associated with procurement, operations and sustainment of additional Wideband Global SATCOM satellites; an update on the status of the Air Force’s commercial SATCOM pilot and pathfinder programs along with steps DoD is taking to expedite the integration of commercially available high-capacity satellite communications to meet the growing capacity demand and counter accelerating adversary communications denial capabilities; plus a comprehensive plan to modernize terminals and networking communications technologies.
5. JSTARS recap. The bill seeks to prohibit the U.S. Air Force from killing the JSTARS recap program and starting afresh with a family-of-systems approach called the Advanced Battle Management System.
The proposal would cap funding for the Advanced Battle Management System at 50 percent until the Air Force puts JSTARS recap on contract.
“The restriction would remain in effect until the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional defense committees that the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization program, as submitted and described in the fiscal year 2018 budget request, is proceeding unhindered with originally planned activities associated with engineering, manufacturing, and development; low-rate initial production; production; and initial contractor support,” the text of the subcommittee’s part of the bill stated.
Or, in short: Proceed with the original JSTARS recap plan, or move forward with serious financial constraints on its alternative approach.
6. Assessment of DoD’s EW enterprise. With some worried that the joint force has overly divested electronic warfare capabilities relative to high-end adversaries, the bill requires the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop an implementation plan to conduct joint campaign modeling and wargaming for joint electromagnetic spectrum operations (JEMSO) of DoD and to submit that plan in the form of a report by February 18, 2019.
This provision stems from legislation introduced by Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a retired Air Force Brig. Gen. who specialized in EW during his service.
7. Coordinating response to cyber-enabled influence operations. The NDAA is also seeking to amend the National Security Act of 1947 to explicitly task the National Security Council with coordinating U.S. response to “malign foreign influence operations and campaigns, particularly those that are cyber-enabled.”
This comes on the heels of Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, which included robust efforts to sow social and political discord among the American electorate executed through social media organizations.
In a number of hearings following Russia’s efforts, lawmakers have been visibly frustrated by the appearance of lack of coordination or understanding among government witness from the Department of Homeland Security, DoD and the intelligence agencies regarding who is responsible for what in thwarting such efforts.
The section of the bill requests the president to task an NSC official with combating such efforts and requires the president to submit a report no later than nine months after the date of the enactment of the bill on the whole-of government strategy for combating malign foreign influence operations.