President Donald J. Trump today signed the $717 billion Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act at a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York.
The act – named for Arizona Sen. John S. McCain – authorizes a 2.6 percent military pay raise and increases the active duty forces by 15,600 service members.
“With this new authorization, we will increase the size and strength of our military by adding thousands of new recruits to active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, including 4,000 new active duty soldiers,” Trump told members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and their families. “And we will replace aging tanks, aging planes and ships with the most advanced and lethal technology ever developed. And hopefully, we’ll be so strong, we’ll never have to use it, but if we ever did, nobody has a chance.”
Services’ End Strength Set
The act sets active duty end strength for the Army at 487,500 in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018. The Navy’s end strength is set at 335,400, the Marine Corps’ at 186,100 and the Air Force’s at 329,100.
On the acquisition side, the act funds 77 F-35 joint strike fighters at $7.6 billion. It also funds F-35 spares, modifications and depot repair capability. The budget also fully funds development of the B-21 bomber.
The act authorizes $24.1 billion for shipbuilding to fully fund 13 new battle force ships and accelerate funding for several future ships. This includes three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines. There is also $1.6 billion for three littoral combat ships.
In addition, the act authorizes 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 10 P-8A Poseidons, two KC-130J Hercules, 25 AH-1Z Cobras, seven MV-22/CMV-22B Ospreys and three MQ-4 Tritons.
There is $5.2 billion in the budget for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and another $850 million to train and equip Iraqi security forces to counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists.
The budget accelerates research on hyperspace technology and defense against hyperspace missiles. It also funds development of artificial intelligence capabilities.
“In order to maintain America’s military supremacy, we must always be on the cutting edge,” the president said. “That is why we are also proudly reasserting America’s legacy of leadership in space. Our foreign competitors and adversaries have already begun weaponizing space.”
The president said adversaries seek to negate America’s advantage in space, and they have made progress. “We’ll be catching them very shortly,” he added. “They want to jam transmissions, which threaten our battlefield operations and so many other things. We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time, your head will spin.”
He said the Chinese military has launched a new military division to oversee its warfighting programs in space. “Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain,” Trump said. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space, and that is why just a few days ago, the vice president outlined my administration’s plan to create a sixth branch of the United States military called the United States Space Force.”
The 2019 Authorization Act does not fund the military. Rather, it authorizes the policies under which funding will be set by the appropriations committees and then voted on by Congress. That bill is still under consideration.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)