White House Releases Policy Statement as Senate Begins NDAA Debate

The Senate began floor debate on the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act Monday. While it will take a number of days for lawmakers to consider the bill and move it toward a vote, the White House registered its views in a policy statement released Sept. 7. The Trump administration asked the Senate to add a new round of BRAC, include specific counter-unmanned aircraft system authorities, and slow down developments in missile defense, among other issues.

The Office of Management and Budget statement lauds the bill for its “many promising reforms,” but the Trump administration makes clear its desire to include another round of base realignment and closure, which the bill currently prohibits. The statement says BRAC is necessary to avoid “wasting resources on unneeded infrastructure” and that another round “would save an additional $2 billion or more annually.”

The administration also objects to a series of proposed organizational changes, including one that would make the DOD’s new Chief Information Warfare Officer the principal Department of Defense space advisor (PDSA), a role currently held by the Secretary of the Air Force. The White House said these changes would “hinder DOD’s ability to stabilize its senior leadership team.”

The Senate NDAA also includes new rules for aviation bonuses, which tie such financial awards to aircraft type and business case analysis, among other features. The White House is worried these rules would “eliminate DOD’s current flexibilities” as well as “harm DOD’s ability to respond to current heavy recruiting by the civilian airline industry.”

The administration also objected to the bill’s proposal to establish a program of record for a road-mobile, ground-launched missile system intended to respond to Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The White House said such a program might not harmonize with its ongoing work to develop “an integrated diplomatic, military, and economic response strategy to maximize pressure on Russia” and that it could “limit potential military response options.”

The White House asked the Senate to include specific authorities for counter-UAS actions because “under current law, the government is unable to fully evaluate or use essential detection, tracking, and mitigation technologies to counter these rapidly advancing threats.” The administration wants to see the Senate include “a tailored grant of authority” for counter-UAS measures “within a framework for effective oversight.”

The statement also asks the Senate to wait on its plans to build up missile defense. The Senate NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors and place 14 more in storage. Such an action would be “premature given that the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) is still underway,” according to the policy document, and the administration asks the Senate to wait until the review provides clear “recommendations on how best to strengthen our Nation’s missile defense.”