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$738 Billion Defense Bill Authorizes Space Force and New Benefits for Federal Workers

Michael Rainey

It looks like Space Force has earned its wings.

The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees announced late Monday an agreement on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision that would establish a new, independent Space Force within the Air Force. The conference report also sets a topline spending level of $738 billion for defense spending in 2020, and includes a provision providing a new benefit to federal employees.

Negotiations on the NDAA were particularly difficult this year, because the two chambers of Congress are controlled by different parties. “This conference report is the product of months of hard-fought, but always civil and ultimately productive, negotiations,” the House Armed Services Committee said in a statement. “We look forward to ushering the conference report through the House and Senate as soon as possible and on to the President’s desk for his signature.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday, and the Senate soon thereafter.

Here are some of the key features in the agreement:

  • The bill would create a new Space Force under Title 10 of the federal code. The Secretary of the Air Force would be empowered to transfer Air Force personnel to the new service – a move seen as limiting its potential size and expense. A new chief of space operations would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and report to the Secretary of the Air Force.
  • A 3.1% pay raise for troops.
  • A base budget of $635 billion for the Pentagon.
  • $71.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding, used to fight the post-9/11 wars.
  • $23.1 billion for defense-related activities at the Department of Energy.  
  • $5.3 billion in emergency disaster funds for military installations.
  • All federal employees would be eligible for 12 weeks of paid parental leave – one of the most significant increases in benefits for government workers in decades.
  • The bill would impose sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

The bill is notable for what it leaves out, as well. Democrats wanted to include limits on President Trump’s ability to transfer funds to build the border wall with Mexico and protections for transgender troops, but those provisions were left out of the final agreement.

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