Defense bill ready for Obama

The National Defense Authorization Act, with $641 billion in spending, has passed both houses of Congress.

image of obama on phone

President Obama will soon get the National Defense Authorization Act to sign or veto.

The House and Senate passed the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, respectively, outlining budget priorities and authorities for the year and paving the way for the president’s signature.

The bill is in keeping with Congress’ “goals of providing resources to meet the threats America faces; keeping faith with America’s men and women in uniform; aligning our military posture in a dangerous world; and rebuilding a force after a decade at war,” according to conference notes released by the office of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)

The $641 billion bill “reflects concern about America’s mounting debt, but also ensures that our Armed Forces have the resources they need to meet an increasingly dangerous world,” the conference notes state. “It also recognizes that the military has absorbed 50 percent of deficit reduction efforts to date, though it comprises only less than 20 percent of the federal budget.”

The bill includes $552 billion in base funds and $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations. It authorizes $1.7 billion more than President Barack Obama requested “and is an incremental step to address the $46 billion decrease when considering where the President proposed National Defense would be for fiscal year 2013 in last year’s budget,” the document states.

Among the bill’s provisions are a 1.7 percent pay increase for members of the military, enhanced oversight of cyber operations and capabilities, and investments in science and technology for future defense needs. The legislation also implements recommendations from the House Armed Services Committee’s Panel on Defense Financial Management and Auditability Reform aimed at improving the auditability of the Defense Department’s finances and its enterprise resource planning programs.

The bill also includes provisions aimed at reforming the way DOD does business with the private sector and in particular addresses contracting issues, small-business targets, and the need to boost competition and innovation.

DOD officials are likely to see a growing emphasis on small-business contracting as Congress seeks to reinforce the defense industrial base. The bill would strengthen small companies’ role in acquisition planning and require more oversight of contract bundling, the practice of combining several smaller contracts into a single large contract that is often beyond what a small firm can handle.

The bill would also remove the $3 million contracting cap for woman-owned small businesses, which would give agencies more flexibility. Congress wants an independent assessment of the composition of DOD’s industrial base, including subcontractors, with a view toward ensuring that DOD has a wide range of businesses to rely on for its operations.

“As the Defense Department resets after a decade of war, we need to make sure our defense dollars are used in the most efficient way and go to the most innovative technologies that support our troops,” said Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee’s Panel on Business Challenges Within the Defense Industry. “Small businesses are true innovators and important job creators.”

In a statement, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the Small Business Committee, said the bill would “help make sure existing small-business goals are actually met, empower small-business advocates and crack down on fraud.”

The House passed the bill 315-107; the Senate vote was 81-14. The bill will now head to the White House for the president’s signature.

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