Soldiers prepare to board a CH-47 Chinook at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Congress fully funded Ground Combat Vehicle development for the fiscal year and requests for 44 Chinooks, but the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act requires minimum sustained production of the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Hercules recovery vehicle. (Sgt. Michael R. Caya / Army)
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Although the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act made headlines for the 1.7 percent pay raise and $552.2 billion it provided for the base budget and the additional $88.5 billion for global wars and operations, it is likely to cause mixed emotions within the Army.
The bill represents a $1.7 billion increase over the Obama administration's 2013 Pentagon budget request.
The president signed the bill into law Jan. 2, but made it clear he is not happy with all of its provisions.
The legislation requires minimum sustained production of the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Hercules recovery vehicle. The Army has argued that it doesn't need more tanks or Bradleys and could use the money elsewhere.
On the other hand, Congress fully funded Ground Combat Vehicle development for the fiscal year and requests for 50 AH-64 Apaches, 59 UH-60 Black Hawks and 44 CH-47 Chinooks.
Congress also has required the Army to end fiscal 2013 with 552,100 soldiers and to cut no more than 15,000 annually over the next four years. That will put end strength at 492,100 — close to the Army's goal of 490,000.
But it takes flexibility the Army had counted on to determine who goes and when. This could have an adverse impact on plans to get rid of poor performers while keeping the best and brightest. The adjustment could have a tertiary effect on training and procurement dollars as funds are diverted to personnel accounts.
A number of Army plans and programs also have come under congressional scrutiny. Topping the list is an independent strategic review panel that will determine whether changes to the planned size and composition of the Army are needed.
Lawmakers have ordered that the review focus on "the validity and utility of the scenarios and planning assumptions the Army used to develop the current force structure of the Army," and an "evaluation of the adequacy of such force structure for meeting the goals of the national military strategy."
The panel will take a close look at the size and structure of Army Training and Doctrine Command, Army Materiel Command and corps and higher headquarters elements. It also will consider potential alternative force structures.
The panel has one year to submit its findings and recommendations.
Other highlights from the 2013 NDAA include:
• Multiyear procurement contracts of CH-47F airframes are approved.
• Annual reports on airlift requirements through 2017. Each report will provide the number of time-sensitive or mission-critical airlift movements and sorties required for training, steady-state and contingency operations, as well as the number of sorties that used Army, Air Force or contractor aircraft, respectively — and Congress wants to know why Air Force aircraft were not used when Army or contractor aircraft were chosen.
• Report on medical evacuation policies and procedures for unarmed Army helicopters and armed Air Force helicopters. Lawmakers want to know the differences between armed escort helicopters that accompany medevac and the Air Force's "casevac" helicopters, between the training of aircrews and the differences between the capacity of each to care for casualties. In addition, Congress seeks to know the cost of arming medevac helicopters, increasing their training to a level comparable to casevac aircrews, and increasing the quality of medevac avionics to that of casevac helicopters.
Abroad and at home
The law has much to say about foreign matters. It requires combatant commanders to give an assessment of capability gaps against North Korea, China and Iran. It offers clear support for Israel and provides the nation $210 million to procure additional "Iron Dome" short-range rocket defense systems, $20 million to improve the Arrow Weapon System, $20 million for development of the Arrow-3 upper-tier interceptor and $60 million to develop "David's Sling," a short-range missile defense system.
Congress also mandated that no funds be made available for U.S. participation in joint military exercises with Egypt if that nation terminates or withdraws from the 1979 Israeli-Egypt peace treaty.
Lawmakers also halted security assistance funding to Pakistan until that nation reopens vital supply routes to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Looking inward, lawmakers have ordered a report on the feasibility of developing gender-neutral occupational standards for jobs closed to women.
Other personnel-related actions include:
• Inclusion of substantiated reports of sexual harassment in the offender's official service record. The notation will be made regardless of rank to reduce the likelihood of repeated offenses and give commanders better awareness as members are transferred.
• Correction of military records for soldiers who experience retaliatory personnel actions for making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment. The defense secretary is ordered to conduct a general education campaign to help such an individual clear his record.
Congress also hammered Washington, D.C., gun laws as they pertain to the approximately 40,000 service members who live in or are stationed within the metropolitan area. They are subject to "onerous and highly restrictive laws," the legislation said.
Congress identified the District of Columbia as having one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the nation, and said its Firearms Control Emergency Amendment Act of 2008 "violat[ed] the spirit by which the Supreme Court" had earlier ruled against the district's handgun ban.
"It is the sense of Congress that active duty military personnel who are stationed or residing in the District of Columbia should be permitted to exercise fully their rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and therefore should be exempt from the District of Columbia's restrictions on the possession of firearms," the legislation said.
The law also requires:
• The Army to establish a chain of command for Army national military cemeteries.
• Gold Star Mothers National Monument Foundation to be allowed to erect an appropriate monument in Arlington National Cemetery.
• The Army secretary to award the Army Combat Action Badge to any soldier who is verified to have personally engaged in combat from Dec. 7, 1941, to Sept. 18, 2001.