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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, voted Wednesday in favor of advancing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. The bill passed out of committee by a bipartisan vote of 25 to 2. This annual legislation, which contains a number of amendments and provisions authored by Fischer, authorizes defense spending and sets the policy and priorities for our military. Overall, the bill authorizes a total of $740.5 billion for national defense.

“Once again, the Senate Armed Services Committee continues its tradition of passing strong, bipartisan legislation to provide for our national defense and support our military and their families. 

The committee came together in difficult circumstances to do our work on behalf of the American people. I’m particularly proud that this bill authorizes a three percent pay raise for our military men and women and supports employment opportunities and child care for their families,” said Senator Fischer.

Below are some highlights from the FY 2021 NDAA:

Support for our Military and Their Families

  • Authorizes a three percent pay raise for all members of the uniformed service, in addition to over 30 types of bonuses and special pays.
  • Prioritizes support for military families, including spouse employment opportunities and child care.
  • Ensures previous reforms to the military privatized housing program and to the military health system are implemented to rigorous standards

Provisions Pertaining to Nebraska

  • Directs the Department of Defense to study the cost, process, and timeline for converting retiring KC-135 refueling planes to RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ISR aircraft as a potential means to grow the fleet and satisfy unmet demand from combatant commanders.  
  • Authorizes $5 million to implement a pilot program on civilian and military partnerships to enhance interoperability and medical surge capacity of the National Disaster Medical System. This pilot will provide training, expand capability, and improve federal response to pandemics and other threats while giving institutions with an established expertise in these areas, such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the opportunity to participate.
  • Invests in the 55th Wing by encouraging the Air Force to meet its goal of 386 operational squadrons and establishes minimum Primary Mission Aircraft Inventories (PMAI) by mission to ensure continued growth.
  • Expresses support for the ongoing effort to recapitalize the Offutt-based E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), and encourages the Department to move forward with the next generation of this important capability.
  • Affirms the Senate Armed Services Committee’s support for STRATCOM’s NC3 Enterprise Center, which formally began operations at Offutt last year, and its mission to develop the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) architecture of the future.
  • Authorizes nearly $200 million in funding for the continued modernization and baseline upgrades for the RC-135, to ensure the platform remains a capable part of the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance system. 
  • Requires DOD to conduct an assessment of the shortfall in current ISR inventory, and detail the planned integration of the RC-135 into next-generation networks.
  • Authorizes $9.3 million for a new vehicle maintenance facility in North Platte and authorizes millions in investment to support key National Guard modernization priorities.
  • Recognizes the effectiveness of the National Security Innovation Network, a DOD office that partners with universities and industry to expand civil-military technology collaboration, and recently established a linkage with the University of Nebraska, noting that acquisition of new talent to support the national security workforce will be critical to achieving the aims of the National Defense Strategy.

Senator Fischer serves as chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which oversees the Department of Defense’s nuclear forces and STRATCOM, as well as national security space programs and missile defense. Additionally, it has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy’s defense activities, including the National Nuclear Security Administration’s work to sustain and modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.  

The Subcommittee’s portion of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 includes the following accomplishments:

  • Authorizes full funding for the continued modernization of our nuclear deterrent, including critical programs such as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which will replace our aging ballistic missile force, and the next-generation nuclear cruise missile, the Long Range Standoff weapon.
  • Invests heavily in the modernization of National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear complex, a third of which dates to the Manhattan Project and early Cold War era.
  • Specifically authorizes the W93 warhead modernization program, and notes the importance of this program to valuable bilateral cooperative efforts between the United States and the United Kingdom on nuclear matters. 
  • Prohibits any reduction in responsiveness, alert level, or quantity of our ICBM forces.
  • Strengthens interagency cooperation between DOD and DOE in the annual budget process for the nuclear enterprise to ensure resources, requirements, and schedules are properly aligned.
  • Authorizes the establishment of a reserve component for the Space Force, and prohibits the involuntary transfer of military or civilian personnel into the Space Force to ensure stability and predictability for the men and women serving in our national security space enterprise.
  • The Strategic Forces subcommittee also contributed the largest single new activity undertaken as part of the bill’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative by authorizing an additional $76.8 million to begin development of a land-based missile defense capability for Guam, a top priority for the INDOPACOM commander.

Senator Fischer also championed several independent initiatives outside of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee that were included in the FY 2021 NDAA. Several of these initiatives are listed below. 

Expanding Air Force Capabilities

  • Recommends the Joint Staff work in coordination with the Air Force Office of Operational Energy to capitalize on modeling and simulation tools to incorporate fuel consumption and logistics into war games and planning.

Enhanced Security Cooperation

  • Highlights the importance of Security Cooperation and the role that State Partnership Program partnerships – like the linkage of the Nebraska National Guard with the Czech Republic and Rwanda – play in helping cultivate positive relationships with partner forces and enhancing long-term interoperability.
  • Supports DOD’s Strategic Evaluation of the State Partnership Program on ways to improve, expand, and enhance the SPP program, and encourages continued expansion to new nations.
  • Encourages further engagement, development, training, and education with partner military forces, a critical component to successfully strengthening alliances and attracting new partners.

Improvements to Readiness and Lethality

  • Calls for an assessment and briefing on the availability of commercial off-the-shelf quantum-resistant encryption technology solutions in order to more rapidly address quantum threats to our national security systems.

The bill passed by the Committee would continue to reorient the Department of Defense to focus on strategic competition with Russia and China in accordance with the National Defense Strategy. Additional provisions in the bill include:

  • Establishes a new Pacific Deterrence Initiative, modeled on the successful European Deterrence Initiative, to focus investment and facilitate oversight over the Department of Defense’s efforts in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Makes targeted investments to begin addressing the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including $46 million for coronavirus vaccine research and production, and encourages faster adoption of telehealth practices. 
  • Expands activities to strengthen the defense industrial base, including analyses of certain materials and technology sectors to address sourcing and industrial capacity.
  • Implements several recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission to help bolster the Department’s cybersecurity.