The NDAA Middle Ground

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) sees the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act as a reform bill, but the committee’s draft doesn’t include some of the proposals the chairman hinted he would push for in the past.

Notably, the draft, which is expected to be released later next week, does not make US Cyber Command a unified combatant command and does not require the B-21 bomber deal to be based on a fixed-price contract, SASC committee aides said Friday. In April, McCain said he would propose using the NDAA to elevate CYBERCOM. In February, he threatened to block the cost-plus contract awarded to Northrop Grumman for the B-21. SASC members debated the markup behind closed doors so it’s not clear why the provisions were kept out. However, the bill does call for increased oversight—including cost controls and required quarterly performance reports to the Government Accountability Office—on the Long-Range Strike Bomber program, according to SASC aides. A summary of the bill released Thursday evening notes it requires the “disclosure of the engineering and manufacturing development total contract award value to congressional defense committees,” but it’s not clear if that information will be made public. Air Force planners have suggested revealing too many details about the new bomber could endanger its capabilities.

The B-21 isn’t the only Air Force program in SASC’s sights. The draft, according to a SASC aide, calls for cutting all funds for the next-generation GPS ground control system, known as OCX, in Fiscal 2017 unless the service reviews and certifies the troubled program, even though there hasn’t been a Nunn-McCurdy breach. SASC’s draft would also require the Pentagon to breakout the F-35 follow-on modernization program as its own major defense acquisition program—a move recommended by the GAO—according to the summary.