Houses Passes $717 Billion Military Spending Bill; Pentagon Speeds Up Arms Exports
May 26, 2018
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Patrick Tucker / Defense One
In a 351-66 vote, the House of Representatives passed their version of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a military spending bill that would pour $717 billion over the next fiscal year into operations to support the military, its wars, and nuclear arms. The NDAA would assure that the US remains by far the world's largest exporter of arms -- with Saudi Arabia a top customer. Another beneficiary: Ukraine, whose Russia-friendly government was toppled by a US-backed, rightwing coup.
Houses Passes $717 Billion Military Spending Bill
2019 spending bill has to be
reconciled with Senate version
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 24, 2018) – In a 351-66 vote, the House of Representatives has passed their version of the 2019 military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA intends to spend $717 billion in the next fiscal year on the military, wars, and nuclear arms.
This is another substantial increase in military spending, broadly supported within both parties. Only 7 Republicans voted against the bill, while Democrats were a bit more split on the matter. Either way, amendments intended to limit nuclear weapons spending or the like were roundly defeated.
One amendment that did manage to make its way into the NDAA was from Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), which demands the Department of Defense investigate if US allies in Yemen were torturing detainees.
The UN had already confirmed that UAE forces were responsible for acts of torture in Yemen, and the investigation is intended to find out if US troops in the country have, in violation of US law, been participating in Emirati torture sessions.
The NDAA bill passed today still has to be reconciled with the Senate version, which was passed by committee in a closed session. Once the two are reconciled, there will be final votes, though there appears so far to be little momentum to resist the ever-growing expenses.
Pentagon Uses 'New Authority' to
Speed Up Arms Exports to Saudis, Others
Pentagon can unilaterally write up sales as 'domestic' contracts
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(May 24, 2018) – In 2017's military spending bill, the Pentagon was given increased authority to directly write up arms exports abroad as "domestic" sales contracts with an export component to them. This was intended to allow the Pentagon to rush certain deliveries.
Indications are that this authority is being heavily used, with Pentagon officials saying that they are shaving "years" off the process of arms exports to certain friendly militaries. This has been used in a few cases, the largest of which, by far, is Saudi Arabia.
Pentagon officials say that since they've already done certified pricing and all of the approval process on past sales to nations like Saudi Arabia, they can "fill in the blank with the country, the price, and any unique requirements."
This is part of the administration's goal of increasing military exports. The US is already by far the world's largest exporter of arms, with Saudi Arabia a top customer. Pentagon officials say that their ability to speed up the process will increase the number of sales.
Pentagon Is Speeding Up Arms Exports
To Saudi Arabia, Other Allies
Patrick Tucker / Defense One
TAMPA, Florida (May 2018) -- The Pentagon is speeding up US weapons deliveries to allied militaries such as Saudi Arabia, Romania, Japan, and South Korea through new "pilot authorities" that change how it can design and execute contracts.
"We have a whole variety of specific programs where we are focused on applying these authorities: Patriot Missiles for Romania; Global Hawk for Japan, THAAD [high-altitude air defense missiles] for Saudi Arabia, and TOW [vehicle-launched missiles] for multiple foreign military sales partners," Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, said Wednesday.
These new authorities will allow the Pentagon to shave "years" off the time it takes to deliver weapons to friendly militaries, Lord said at the annual SOFIC event here.
"The idea here is that we often have the same system that is being sold to multiple countries, or perhaps a small variant," she said. "If we have just gone through certified cost in pricing and gone through all the [Defense Contracting Management Agency] and [Defense Cooperation in Armaments] work, and we have current information, we can take that and leverage that to quickly go and sell to another country. That's the basic idea. Then we'll always follow up and verify, and so forth."
Saudi Arabia is a frequent target of missile strikes by Houthi rebels. Regional authorities routinely fret about Iran's growing missile capabilities.
Lord said there was no shortage of countries looking to do business with US arms dealers so long as the government can move faster to approve the deals. Asked about Ukraine, which recently received US anti-tank weapons it had been seeking since 2015, she forecast faster sales.
"We have quite a focus on Ukraine. I've been talking with policy [officials] just over the last week about trying to find an individual who can work directly with Ukraine to help them with their acquisition process on an intermittent basis," she said.
The pilot authorities were created by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Among other things, they allow the Pentagon to write domestic arms contracts that make provisions for export sales, Lord said.
This means that "when we have an international partner that wants to buy a US system, we don't need to spend weeks and months writing another," she said. "We have a system where we can fill in the blank with the country, the price, and any unique requirements."
Lord also said the Pentagon would work with "the engineering community" to make sure that future weapons are designed with an eye toward exportability -- reducing, for example, the number of parts whose sensitivity might hinder their sales abroad.
Lord formerly worked for Textron, whose executives often complain that their Shadow UAV is forbidden to compete on the international market with a similar Chinese drone that has found clients in the Middle East. She struck a similar note today, recounting conversations with "partners and allies who wanted US technology, but eventually bought elsewhere.
"I would hear stories: 'We're going to go with the Russian alternative. We're going to go with the Chinese alternative because we know we can get it quickly. We know it might fail 80 or 90 percent of the time, but we will have something to work with.' That's a missed opportunity for the US We're going to make sure we do everything possible to improve on that," she said.
Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He's also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? (Current, 2014). Previously, Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years.
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