Hoeven: Senate Passes National Defense Legislation

Senator Pushed for Strong Bipartisan Support to Overcome Presidential Veto

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today spoke on the Senate floor to urge strong bipartisan support for the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate passed the final version of the bill later in the day by 70 to 27. The House approved the bill last week. The legislation now goes to President Obama, who has threatened to veto it.

“Today’s vote approves the National Defense Authorization Act, but we still have work to do,” Hoeven said. “The president has threatened to veto the bill, which means Congress will need to hold enough votes to override his veto. We may also need to overcome a possible attempt to block passage of the Defense Appropriations bill, the companion bill to this one, which provides the actual funding for our military and makes sure they have the tools they need to defend our country.”

“The Defense Authorization bill passed with strong bipartisan support,” Hoeven said “We need to work this bill and others, including appropriations bills, through regular order. That means moving legislation to the floor for debate, discussion, possible amendments and a vote. That’s the way Congress functioned in the past, and that’s the way to get things done for the American people.”

Hoeven worked to ensure the Defense Authorization Act included priorities for North Dakota and the nation. The NDAA includes a total of $604 billion to support the U.S. military. Consistent with the Senate Budget Resolution, the agreement authorizes $89 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, which is composed of operations and maintenance funds that support readiness and training for our troops.

North Dakota plays a remarkably important role in the nation’s defense. Hoeven worked hard to ensure that the new legislation supports the nuclear missions at Minot Air Force Base, the Global Hawk missions at Grand Forks and the North Dakota National Guard.

Brief highlights of the bill include the following:

  • The agreement fully authorizes the FY16 budget request for the ICBM and B-52 missions at Minot AFB, including the Nuclear Force Improvement Program, and the Global Hawk mission at Grand Forks AFB.
  • The agreement authorizes $7.3 million to construct an Intelligence Targeting Facility at Hector Field to support the Air National Guard’s new targeting mission.  Hoeven is a member of the Military Construction Appropriations Committee that provides funding within this authorization that will build the facility.
  • The Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Authorization bill also requires the Air Force to produce a comprehensive plan to increase the number of qualified pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft.  This plan could include using private sector-led Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) training, which Hoeven has promoted. The senator included language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Defense Appropriations bill that requires the Air Force to consider private sector-led training for RPA pilots.

Personnel and Benefits:

  • Basic Pay: The agreement includes a 1.3 percent raise in basic pay across the board for all military servicemembers grade O-6 and below.  It also reauthorizes 30 types of bonus pay and increases the maximum amount of nuclear officer bonus pay, which is important for Air Force personnel in Minot.
  • Thrift Savings Plan: The conference agreement creates a new 401k-style retirement benefit for the more than 80% of servicemembers who retire before reaching 20 years of service.  
  • Pharmacy Copays: The agreement rejects most of the administration’s proposed increases in pharmacy copayments and accepts only the amount necessary to fund new retirement benefits.
  • Dual military couples: The conference committee preserved housing allowances for dual-military couples.