House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown

By On July 26, 2018

House passes final defense bill with limits on F-35s to Turkey, China crackdown

The Capitol is pictured. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

The bill includes a 2.6 percent troop pay raise, equal to the Pentagon request and the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. | John Shinkle/POLITICO | John Shinkle/POLITICO

The House overwhelmingly passed on Thursday a compromise $717 billion defense policy legislation that would limit the delivery of new F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and crack down on Chinese telecommunications technology and foreign investment.

The vote was 359-54 to pass the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 5515 (115), as lawmakers aim to enact the must-pass bill at the earliest point in more than four decades. The Senate is likely to take up the measure as early as next week and send it to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

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At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the House vote and said the Trump administration "encourages" swift passage of the measure in the Senate.

In all, 139 Democrats joined all but five Republicans to pass the bill.

The compromise legislation, rolled out Monday, is the product of historically quick negotiations between House and Senate Armed Services leaders to reconcile their competing versions of the annual policy bill. If signed into law, it would be the first defense policy bill since 1996 to become law before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.

The comp romise is a continuation of efforts by Republican defense hawks to build up the military and regain readiness after years of strict budget caps.

On the floor Thursday, House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) contended the bill would help regain military readiness and push back on competitors like Russia and China.

“If we send our men and women on missions, they deserve to have the best equipment, the best training and the best support that this country can provide,” Thornberry said. “It advances implementation of the new National Defense Strategy so we can be better prepared against peer-to-peer or near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.”

Though the legislation was lauded Thursday by lawmakers from both parties, it could be Thornberry’s last as chairman should Republicans lose their House majority in hotly contested midterm elections this fall.

Notably, the legislation takes aim at Turkey’s participation in the F-35 Join t Strike Fighter program as relations with the U.S. sour.

The bill would bar the delivery of F-35s to Turkey until a report is delivered on Turkey’s behavior, including an assessment of its participation in the F-35 program as well as the risks that would be posed by the country's deployment of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

The compromise bill also includes a government-wide ban on procurement of equipment and services from the Chinese firms ZTE and Huawei, whose technologies have been cited as a cybersecurity risks.

Still, the measure doesn't include provisions endorsed by the Senate that would reinstate sanctions against ZTE and undo a deal the company recently cut with the Commerce Department. While popular in both parties, the White House staunchly opposed undoing the ZTE deal, which included a $1 billion fine and changes to its executive leadership.

The measure also includes a package aimed at beefing up the Committee on Fore ign Investment in the U.S., which reviews acquisitions and mergers involving foreign companies that may have national security implications.

The measure was long sought by defense hawks to help curb Chinese access to U.S. technologies through acquisitions. And Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged Congress to include an overhaul in the defense policy bill.

Unlike previous years, lawmakers weren’t wrangling over the defense budget topline after a two-year budget deal, H.R. 1625 (115), hammered out earlier this year by congressional leaders massively increased defense spending through 2019.

Despite Democratic misgivings over a slew of issues, the top House Armed Services Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, called the compromise legislation a “very strong bill” and noted Democratic victories such as the removal of environmental riders.

“There are things that we would like to see in that were left out and things that are in that we’d prefer w ere not,” Smith said. “But that is the nature of the legislative process. It is a compromise.”

Still, Democrats aired some of their grievances during Thursday’s debate, including a provision that authorizes a new submarine-launched, low-yield nuclear warhead, which critics have warned would be destabilizing.

"Developing new low-yield nuclear weapons when we currently have more nuclear weapons than we could ever possibly use is not just a waste of money, it also lowers the threshold required before a nuclear conflict begins," said Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.). "A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon."

Of the total $717 billion, the bill would authorize $616.9 billion for the base Pentagon budget, $21.9 billion for nuclear weapons programs under the Energy Department and another $69 billion in war spending from the special Overseas Contingency Operations account.

The final bill would grow the military services by 15,600 active-duty troops, matching the Pentagon request. The Senate had pushed for slower growth in the military's ranks for the new fiscal year.

The legislation would authorize 13 new Navy warships, three more than requested by the Pentagon. In addition to the 10 ships requested by the Navy, lawmakers authorized two more Littoral Combat Ships as well as a new aircraft carrier. And the bill would green-light the Pentagon to purchase 77 F-35s, equal to the administration’s request.

The bill includes a 2.6 percent troop pay raise, equal to the Pentagon request and the largest pay increase in nearly a decade.

Lawmakers also authorized increased funding for the Advanced Battle Management System, the Air Force’s planned follow-on to its aging fleet of E-8C JSTARS surveillance aircraft.

It also would bar the service from retiring the legacy JSTARS. The move effectively kills efforts, spearheaded by House Armed Services members, to require the Air Force to undertake a r ecapitalization program for JSTARS, which the service had sought to cancel.

Gregory Hellman contributed to this report.


Source: Google News Turkey | Netizen 24 Turkey

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