National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

April 12, 2016
May 18, 2016
Passed in House

This annual must-pass bill authorizes all spending for Defense Dept. programs and activities. Relevant provisions deal with military aid for Israel, a ballistic missile defense system for U.S. allies in the Middle East, congressional oversight on the Obama administration’s Iran policy, and funding for the training and equipment of certain Syrian rebel groups.

The summary below reflects the draft of the bill that the House passed on 5/18/16. The NDAA for FY 2017 ultimately passed into law as *S. 2943 on 12/23/16. See that bill for final authorizations.

Israeli Missile Defense

As in previous years, the NDAA would authorize spending on joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs and disbursals to Israel for the procurement of missile defense technology. No more than $62 m. would be provided to Israel for the procurement of Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome system, so long as the disbursal comports with the Iron Dome-related agreement made by Israel and the U.S. on 3/5/14 (see Update in JPS 43 [4]). With the usual provisions for co-development and co-production with the U.S., no more than $150 m. may be provided to Israel for the David’s Sling system and no more than $120 m. for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program.

Up to $25 m. would be allotted to the secretaries of defense and state for joint research, development, testing, and evaluation activities with Israel on “directed energy capabilities,” or lasers, designed to detect and defend against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, drones, mortars, and IEDs. Before any disbursals could be made, the secretaries would be required to submit the text of such an agreement with Israel, which would be required to include consideration for intellectual property and cost sharing. They would also be required to submit semiannual reports to Congress on these activities until the authorization is terminated on 12/31/2018.

An amendment offered by Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) would reassert Congress’s respect for Israel’s right to defend itself, particularly against Iran. It would require the Obama administration to submit a report to Congress on military aid requested by Israel, including an assessment of the availability of any items or services requested and a description of the steps being taken to accommodate Israel’s requests.

Managing Relations with Iran

Congress once again used the NDAA to confine U.S. policies toward Iran. The NDAA conveyed the sense of Congress that the JCPOA did not address “the totality of [Iran’s] malign activities,” and suggested that the U.S. should do more to counter Iran in the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian Gulf, and that the U.S. should strengthen its ballistic missile defense capabilities.

In terms of concrete measures, $4 m. would be authorized for monitoring “proliferation pathways” under the JCPOA, and the report on Iran’s military power, which the Obama administration was required to submit to Congress every year, would be modified to include new sections on Iran’s cyber capabilities. Furthermore, $50 m. would be made available until 9/30/20 in assistance and training funds for countries bordering the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Mediterranean Sea in their efforts to deter Iranian smuggling or other illicit maritime activity. The training aid may include equipment, supplies, and other items for small-scale military construction. Any implementation of this provision would have to be reported to Congress. Separately, the president would be required to assess any suspected Iranian ballistic missile launch, including tests, within 48 hours and inform Congress on the nature of the launch, as well as any actions taken to stymie further launches, within 15 days. A related provision would express the sense of Congress that the U.S. should encourage the establishment of an “integrated ballistic missile defense system” that links Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) partner countries, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel to defend against Iran.

The president would be required to report to Congress every 6 mos. on the Iranian government’s use of commercial aircraft for military activities. Reporting requirements initiated in the NDAA for 2013 (*H.R. 4310 of 3/29/12) relating to foreign vessels’ use of Iranian sea- and airports would be extended for 3 years.

During the House’s consideration of the NDAA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) submitted an amendment that would have added his bill, H.R. 5200 of 5/11/16, to the NDAA, calling for the Obama administration to report on Russian-Iranian military cooperation. It was adopted by a voice vote.

Matters Relating to Syria

In total, no more than $250 m. would be authorized for the Syria Train and Equip Fund, matching the Obama administration’s request. The associated authorization for providing such training and assistance for certain vetted elements of the Syrian opposition would be extended another year. The secretary of defense would be required to submit a report to Congress within 6 mos. describing the political, economic, and security conditions necessary to prevent the formation of terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria in the future; providing a detailed description of the conditions that must be met in order to consider ISIS defeated; and presenting a strategy for the U.S. and its allied to bring about such conditions.

A series of other provisions would have tweaked U.S. military actions in Syria. They would have barred the Defense Dept. from facilitating the transfer of “man-portable air defense systems”; prohibited the Syria Train and Equip Fund from being used to support previous recipients of such funds who have misused the training or equipment; and expressed the sense of Congress that the U.S. should condemn all attacks on medical facilities in Syria.

Last major action: 5/18/16 passed in House, 277–147.

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