This is an annual, must-pass piece of legislation that provides the Defense Dept. legal authority to carry out all its activities, including cooperative U.S.-Israeli military programs, reacting to the threat of Iranian nuclear development, and support for certain Syrian rebel groups.
The House passed its original version of this bill (H.R. 4435 of 4/9/14) earlier in the year, but the Senate’s version (S. 2410 of 6/2/14) was never voted on. This new NDAA represents a compromise reached by the House and the Senate in 12/2014.
Israeli Missile Defense
The Defense Dept. was authorized to spend up to $621.575 m. on joint U.S.-Israeli programs, including $350.972 m. on for the Iron Dome missile defense system. Iron Dome funding is pursuant to the 3/5/14 agreement signed by the U.S. and Israel guaranteeing continued cooperation on the project. The agreement provided for the U.S. production of certain components by major defense contractor Raytheon and full U.S. access to the U.S. to Iron Dome technology, which had been proprietary hitherto. The remaining funds authorized would support 3 other U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs—notably Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling.
Managing Relations with Iran
Congressional oversight of ongoing negotiations with Iran would be extended and expanded. Specifically, the administration would be required to continue delivering Congress its annual report on Iran’s military power through 2016. (See H.R. 2647 of 6/2/09 on congressionalmonitor.org for the report’s full requirements.) The legislation also requires a report on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the 6-month interim deal and Iran’s nuclear program. Additional reports on the same 2 subjects would be required biannually after Iran and the P5+1 come to a final agreement.
In addition to oversight on the negotiations, the 2015 NDAA also authorizes the U.S. military to continue technical preparations for a possible conflict with Iran. First, it authorizes the Defense Dept. to contract a study on its ground-based midcourse missile defense system, designed to protect the U.S. from medium- to long-range ballistic missiles, specifically against ‘current and plausible’ threats from Iran. Second, it requires the administration to report back on its ongoing defensive efforts, particularly those with regional and international partners, related to the possible threat from Iranian ballistic missiles.
As in previous years, the 2015 NDAA stipulates that it is not tantamount to an authorization for the use of force against Iran.
Support for Syrian Rebels
The 2015 NDAA authorizes ‘training, equipment, supplies, stipends, construction of training and associated facilities, and sustainment’ for certain Syrian rebel groups and elements of the Syrian opposition, extending the 9/2014 authorization through 12/31/16 (*H. J. Res. 124 of 9/9/14). Prior to delivering any of the aforementioned support and, on a quarterly basis thereafter, the administration is required to deliver an unclassified report to Congress describing the goals, costs, concept of operations, roles of partner nations, and number of U.S. personnel involved, as well as any other relevant details. The administration is further required to vet rebel groups designated as beneficiaries, taking into consideration their ties to the Iranian government, groups designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations, and Shi‘i groups aligned with the Syrian regime, in addition to their commitment to human rights and the rule of law. The stated goals of this authorization are threefold: defending the Syrian people from ISIS, protecting the U.S. and its allies, and promoting conditions for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict.
As in previous years, Congress included measures in the NDAA designed to minimize Russia’s involvement in Syria. Specifically, the secretary of defense must deliver a report on the known transfers of lethal military equipment from