Senate Adds Major New Proposals to the Upcoming NDAA
Approved last Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s initial markup of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act reveals several new major national defense policy provisions.
One major provision featured in the SASC’s version of the NDAA is the announcement of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI). The PDI provides funding for defense programs and other measures to send a deterrence message to America’s Chinese adversaries. The Senate has proposed the PDI in order to highlight the U.S.’s commitment to defending its interests and allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The best way to protect U.S. security and prosperity in Asia is to maintain a credible balance of military power, but, after years of underfunding, America’s ability to do so is at risk,” the SASC claims.
Although appropriations for this program have not yet been negotiated, this program will most likely resemble 2014’s European Deterrence Initiative, which has since received $22 billion towards discouraging Russian military aggression following their seizure of territory in Crimea. The SASC’s summary of the proposal states that having an officially sanctioned PDI “will enhance budgetary transparency and oversight, focus resources on key military capability gaps, reassure U.S. allies and partners, and bolster the credibility of American deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.”
The Senate reemphasized this focus towards the South China Sea by committing to long term funding of ship building suppliers within the NDAA. While the bill does not specifically request additional ships, it allots $472 million for long-lead-time materials and procurement to keep the industrial base healthy. Between the coronavirus pandemic and recent complications with manufacturers, such as faulty steel suppliers, the submarine and ship building industries are under significant strain. The committee’s top ranking member, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., stated that these long term funds were made “so they can be ready to go, if not this year, than at the next opportunity.” More importantly, this authorization of long-lead-time materials is being used as a common Senate strategy to not only keep the industry suppliers stable but also protect previously funded ship programs from being cancelled. With tensions on the rise in the Indo-Pacific, the Senate still has strong interest in requesting more naval vessels but recognizes that the shipyard and industry partners could struggle to handle the additional workload.
The SASC also proposes funding to enable the expansion of U.S. naval capabilities. SASC seeks to authorize funds for new-build in the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer program, the amphibious assault ship program and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock program. Alternatively, the SASC’s submarine proposal only requested one additional Virginia-class sub for the 2021 Fiscal Year. The SASC preferred a second sub but was advised that the funds could not be utilized in a single year due to workload. Reed explained that currently the shipyards are busy managing 9 new Virginia-class subs that the Navy contracted in December, and will soon have to prepare for the introduction of Columbia-class submarine development into their operations. With these projects in mind, the long-lead-time authorization allows for a potential 10th Virginia sub to be purchased in the future without disrupting current productions.
The SASC have established their defense priorities through their unique construction of the 2021 NDAA. In response to SASC’s proposals, the House Armed Services Committee will start reconciling their own considerations with SASC’s for the final version the defense policy bill on July 1.