House Passes FY2017 NDAA – UPDATE

House Passes FY2017 NDAA – UPDATE

The House passed the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a few hours ago.  The bill, H.R. 4909, authorizes and recommends funding levels for national security space programs.  The bill increases from nine to 18 the number of Russian RD-180 rocket engines the United Launch Alliance (ULA) can obtain for its Atlas V rockets, recommends funding for developing a U.S. alternative to the RD-180, and allows some of that money to spent on portions of a new launch system other than the engine.

On the RD-180 issue, the House bill is at odds with the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which insists that ULA should be allowed to obtain only nine more, so that debate is certain to continue.

The House adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) that responded to objections raised by the White House in its Statement of Administration Policy (SAP).  Smith is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).  Rogers is the chairman of its Strategic Forces Subcommittee that oversees most national security space programs.

In prior NDAAs, HASC had insisted that money allocated for building a U.S.
alternative to Russia’s RD-180 be spent only on an engine, not on other parts of a new launch system. During committee markup in April, a Smith amendment was adopted that allowed up to 25 percent of the funds to be spent on a new launch vehicle, upper stage, strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.  The White House SAP complained about the restriction, however, arguing that the committee was too focused on just one part of the launch system.

The Smith/Rogers amendment increases that percentage to 31 percent.  

The SAP also disagreed with language in the bill that would have required the government to obtain intellectual property rights for any new rocket propulsion system developed with government funds.   

The Smith/Rogers amendment replaces that language with a requirement that the Secretary of Defense develop a plan to protect the government’s investment and assured access to space, including acquiring rights, as appropriate, for the purpose of developing alternative sources of supply and manufacture in case they are needed if, for example, the company goes out of business.

The amendment was grouped together with a number of others during floor debate into “En Bloc 8” and passed by voice vote.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 277-147, with most Democrats voting against it (142 against, 40 in favor).  If the President were to veto the bill, there would be enough votes to sustain it.  A two-thirds vote of both chambers is required to overturn a veto.  When the House has its full complement of 435 members, that means 290 votes are needed to overturn, 13 more than voted in favor of the bill.   The bill has a long way to go, however.  In addition to the RD-180 issue, there are many differences with the SASC version, which is expected to be debated by the Senate next week.

Note: this story was updated with additional detail on the House vote and the Senate schedule for considering its version of the NDAA.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.