(May 5, 2015) It was nearly dawn Thursday when the House Armed Services Committee voted 60-2 to approve the committee's version of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. The full House should take up the bill next week, about the same time the Senate Armed Services Committee begins pondering its version of the defense legislation.
In the meantime, there is much in the HASC version for National Guard members to like, including amendments that would prohibit the Air Force from retiring the A-10 fighter and maintain the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System in the Guard.
However, there is no mention of the Army's Aviation Restructure Initiative, which would remove all AH-64 Apache helicopters from the Army Guard and put them in the active component.
The legislation also accelerates the modernization of C-130H aircraft and authorizes the State Partnership Program for two more years.
A much-ballyhooed part of the NDAA modifies the military retirement system by providing a 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan for all service members. Both service members and the government would contribute. It would allow military members who leave the service before reaching the 20-year mark to take away a financial package. Eighty-three percent of troops currently separate with no retirement benefit.
Military construction is a mixed bag. The Army Guard would receive $167.437 million, which is about $30 million less than the president's budget seeks. The Air Guard would receive $123.538 million, which is exactly what the president's budget requested.
End strength numbers, too, are down for the Army Guard, but up for the Air Guard. The HASC bill would set Army Guard end strength at 342,000, down 8,200 from last year's final NDAA and equal to the level in the president's budget. The Army Guard would also lose 1,111 dual-status technicians from the previous year's bill. Active Guard and Reserve numbers fall, also, to 30,770, a drop of 615 from the 2015 law.
The Air Guard would gain 500 airmen in the 2016 bill for a total of 105,500. It would gain 40 AGR personnel for a total of 14,748, but lose 38 dual-status technicians from the previous year. The 2016 level for dual-status technicians would be 22,104.
NGAUS will post on its website a close look at the HASC version of the 2016 NDAA sometime today.