House Passes Revised Defense Policy Bill, Rejects New BRAC Round
By Julia Bergman
The Day
November 5, 2015
The U.S. House on Thursday passed a revised version of the annual defense policy bill that includes strong support for submarine development and construction in Connecticut, a slight bump in pay for service members and rejects the Obama administration's request for a new Base Realignment and Closure round in 2017. 
The $607 billion National Defense Authorization Act for 2016, which sets the policies and guidelines for how defense appropriations will be spent, will be taken up by the Senate in the coming weeks.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 370-58.
President Barack Obama vetoed a previous version of the bill due to debates over using the overseas contingency operations, the so-called war fund, to increase defense spending without increasing domestic spending, and closing the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The revised NDAA "abides by new budget caps agreed to in the bipartisan budget agreement signed on Monday by President Obama," according to a release from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's, D-2nd District, office.
Courtney, who is ranking member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and part of the conference negotiations over the bill, called it a "solid outcome."
The bill requires that the secretary of defense submit a report to Congress during the next budget submission on how the department plans to use the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund — which Courtney and other lawmakers have pushed for in recent years as a mechanism for funding the Ohio-class replacement program, the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, outside of the Navy's regular shipbuilding budget.
The report must include what type of funding the department plans to put into the fund, and how the fund would help reduce costs or create a more efficient program.
Courtney and other lawmakers have had to protect the fund on several occasions. No money was immediately deposited in the fund when it was established by law last year with the passage of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office on Navy shipbuilding cites the "potential" for the fund to save "several hundred million dollars per submarine."
An amendment proposed by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also is included in the bill.
The amendment is seeking to increase congressional oversight over the Department of Defense's compliance with Buy American laws by requiring disclosure on contracts valued at more than $5 million.
Murphy has pushed for strengthening Buy American laws. Specifically, he's been concerned with what he says is "overuse" by the defense department of Buy American waivers, allowing the department to sidestep certain provisions in the Buy American Act.
Specific submarine provisions in the defense policy bill include:
Virginia-class submarines
Authorized in the bill is $5.3 billion for the construction of Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines built by Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding; $3.3 billion is for two submarines in 2016 and $2 billion is for advanced procurement of submarines in 2017 and later.
Virginia payload module
The bill authorizes $168 million for the continued development of the Virginia Payload Module, an 80-foot section with four large-diameter payload tubes being developed to replace undersea strike and other capabilities lost when the Ohio-class ballistic missile nuclear submarines, known as Boomers, retire in the 2020s.
Ohio-replacement program
Also included is $1.4 billion for the continued development of the Ohio-class replacement program, which replaces the aging Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines with new nuclear missile submarines, and calls for the construction of 12 boats over a procurement period between 2021 and 2035, and an additional $187 million for development of the reactor systems for the new Ohio boats.
The bill also includes funding for aircraft and helicopter construction, funding for a new Connecticut National Guard building and changes to the current military retirement system, among other provisions.