Armed Forces News

Besides calling for a 3-percent raise in basic pay on Jan. 1, the House version of the $732-billion 2021 defense-spending bill calls for $69 billion to fund overseas contingency operations. Key elements of the bill include:

* Full funding of the European Defense Initiative (EDI), to include an additional $3.8 billion for strategic sealift, satellite communications, submarine and antisubmarine warfare capabilities – all directed at deterring aggression by Russia. Military-to-military dialogue between the U.S. and Russia would continue at a lower level than present, with the intent of reducing the potential for conflict.

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* $3.58 billion in funding for initiatives relating to the Indo-Pacific area of operations, to ensure responsiveness to threats posed by China and North Korea. The bill would bar reducing the number of troops stationed in South Korea below 28,500 until the Pentagon can certify that such actions would not undermine the country’s alliance with the U.S., the North Korean threat is reduced accordingly, and South Korea can show it is capable of deterring a conflict with its northern neighbor. Input from South Korea and Japan would

* Support would continue for partners in Iraq and Syria who are battling ISIS, with Congress gaining additional oversight of how the military trains and equips these forces. U.S. troops would be barred from helping Syrian oil-production and marketing activities. U.S. funds could not be used knowingly to foster activities of terrorist organizations. The Pentagon also would have to provide lawmakers with detailed activity relating to Operation Spartan Shield, which includes operations aimed at countering Iranian threats.

* Afghan security and police forces would receive $3.5 billion to fund their fight against the Taliban. Afghanistan would be encouraged to improve opportunities for its female citizens, and Afghan citizens who face great risk in their home country would have the opportunity to emigrate to the U.S.

* Limits would be placed on the use of U.S. troops at the southern border. Such deployments would not be permitted unless the Pentagon can show they would not hinder readiness. Any such missions would be undertaken only by personnel whose skills and unit missions “align with the supported tasks assigned.” The Pentagon and states with National Guard units involved in such activities would have to provide frequent reports that outline mission costs, requirements, and impact on readiness.

* Steps would speed the development, acquisition and sustainment of new technologies, but retain centralized oversight of such activities. Whistleblowers who step forward with evidence of mismanagement would receive additional protection from retribution.

* The Pentagon would provide Congress with reports on military and diplomatic progress in Africa, to include implications of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative on the continent.

* Intelligence and emerging-threats capabilities would be bolstered by increased funding for cyber, artificial intelligence, and the national-security workforce.

* Funding for programs aimed at countering weapons of mass destruction, to include chemical and biological threats, would include restoration of $135.2 million that had been cut from 2020 levels.

* Several provisions would address maintenance of the nation’s technological edge. Science and technology funding would increase by roughly $600 million. Funding for biotechnology and pandemic preparedness would increase by $60 million. Counter-UAS (unmanned aerial systems) and machine-learning capabilities also would be supported.

* Intelligence and security capabilities would be brought into line with the National Defense Strategy. Climate, geospatial events and medical intelligence programs would be bolstered.

* Local educational entities that teach military dependents would get an additional $40 million. Those that address the needs of children would special disabilities could be eligible for $10 million.

* Stars and Stripes, the government-sponsored newspaper and provider for members of the armed services, would be funded for another year.

* The Pentagon would study the possibility of allowing military spouses to take part in the Thrift Savings Plan.

* Pregnant service members would be issued maternity uniforms on a temporary basis, under a five-year pilot program.