U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) member, delivered remarks today during the first formal meeting of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Committee, a ceremony known as “pass the gavel.”

“Providing for the defense of our nation is the most important thing we do in Congress, and we do it through the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Senator Cramer. “I am honored to once again serve on the Conference Committee and to ensure North Dakota’s priorities are included in this legislation.”

Senator Cramer spoke to his fellow conferees about the importance of continuing to maintain a credible nuclear deterrent, bolstering Space Force through the National Guard, and including his USS Frank E. Evans Act in this year’s NDAA.

Last July, the Senate passed its version of the NDAA, which Senator Cramer helped write through his seat on SASC and pass when it came to the floor. The NDAA Conference Committee, where Senator Cramer is joined by his Armed Services colleagues, is a chance for the House and Senate to rectify their versions and pass a final piece of legislation, as Congress has done every year for nearly 60 years. Below is a recap of the Senate’s NDAA.

Topline Provisions

The $740.5 billion bill to provide for the national defense of the United States:

  • Prioritizes strategic competition with China and Russia,
  • Provides the requested 3 percent pay raise for our troops,
  • Advocates for the employment of military spouses and ensures the Defense Department provides high-quality and accessible child care,
  • Strengthens oversight and acquisition management,
  • Establishes a Defense Department reserve of strategic minerals and metals which will fully meet the strategic demands, eliminate import reliance on near-peer and peer competitors within 5 years, provide Defense with the supplies in the event of international supply disruptions, utilize and build off existing programs like the National Defense Stockpile, and ensure the United States is no longer wholly reliant on China for the processing or manufacturing of these resources.

North Dakota Priorities

Under Senator Cramer’s leadership in committee, the SASC-passed NDAA contains funding authorization and language for missions both directly and indirectly impacting North Dakota’s military community. It advances nuclear modernization; Space Force; the Arctic Mission; National Guard members; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) efforts.

Specifically, this NDAA:

Minot

  • Continues to prioritize a defense modernization strategy which includes fully funding the B-52 program and almost $1.5B for the Minuteman III replacement.
  • Includes language prohibiting the drawdown or reduction of ICBMs to any lower than 400.
  • Directs the Air Force Secretary, in consultation with the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, to provide a report on the transition from the Minuteman III to the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.
  • Ensures a constantly vigilant strategic deterrent to keep U.S. nuclear deterrent credible and modernized for decades.
  • Funds the MH-139 Gray Wolf helicopter as a replacement for the aging UH-1 helicopters at Minot.
  • Funds $66M in military construction for a consolidated airfield operations building at Minot Air Force Base.

Grand Forks

  • Limits the retirement of any RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft until the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certifies that Combatant Commands will not lose ISR capability or capacity.
  • Encourages expeditiously building of Space Force with focus on minimizing bureaucratic structures to allow for innovative solutions.
  • Directs Space Force to continue working with research institutions, like the University of North Dakota (UND), in areas like autonomous platforms and policy, supply chains, and cybersecurity.
  • Funds $3M for extreme cold weather research performed by several universities including UND.
  • Funds $3M towards USMC Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) for mission planning and re-planning for an ISR mission for a UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) for a duration greater than 5 days.

Fargo

  • Provides $32M in military construction for the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Fargo.
  • Authorizes $17.5M for a Consolidated Remote Piloted Aircraft Operations Facility for the 119th Wing.
  • Prevents the premature shutdown of the MQ-9 production line by putting $170M into the purchase of new aircraft.

Cavalier

  • Funds operations of the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System (PARCS), a part of the Radar Warning System designed to detect and provide warning in the case of a Surface-Launched Ballistic Missile attack against North America at Cavalier Air Space Station.