Kelly Shapes Defense Bill in Committee to Support Army, Air Force Modernization, Strengthen National Security 

Today, Arizona Senator and 25-year Navy veteran Mark Kelly announced that he secured major Arizona and national security priorities during the Senate Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was passed out of committee on a bipartisan vote. This includes continued progress on future plans and missions for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) and infrastructure upgrades and support for critical programs at Arizona military bases across the state. 

Kelly chairs the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland, where he led work on the portions of the NDAA that cover Army, Air Force, National Guard and Reserve planning, programs, procurement, and research and development. During the NDAA process, he chaired hearings on Army and Air Force modernization to assess priorities from each branch and subsequently helped to craft relevant portions of this year’s NDAA. Through Kelly’s leadership, this year’s Senate NDAA balances both investments in Army and Air Force modernization and maintaining necessary capabilities to respond to threats facing the United States and our allies and partners. This includes reversing the Air Force’s proposed retirement of 26 F-15E fighter jets and requiring the Air Force to maintain 16 E-3 Sentries until there is a replacement. 

“From Russia’s war in Ukraine to conflict and terrorist activity in the Middle East, and China’s aggression in the Pacific, we are facing a series of challenges that require us to keep our competitive edge over adversaries, while maintaining the readiness and capabilities needed to defend ourselves. After months of bipartisan negotiation, this defense bill takes what we’re learning from these conflicts and makes important investments to strategically modernize our military while ensuring our servicemembers have the tools they need now. I’ve also worked hard to make sure this defense bill continues to elevate Arizona’s role in our national defense by upgrading our bases and expanding our impact on intelligence, electronic warfare, and special operations,” said Senator Kelly. 

Kelly continued, “It is, however, incredibly disappointing that the committee voted to add provisions targeting care for transgender servicemembers and children of servicemembers. This would force servicemembers to choose between their careers and doing what is right for them and their families. This is wrong, it undermines our military’s ability to retain the best and brightest, and it needs to be fixed.” 

See below for a breakdown of additional priorities Kelly secured: 

Army and Air Force Modernization from Kelly’s Airland Subcommittee   

The following priorities secured by Kelly as he led the Airland Subcommittee will ensure our military readiness and force modernization. 

  • Supports the Army’s priority modernization efforts including long-range fires, future vertical lift, next-generation combat vehicles, and air and missile defense, and authorizes increased funding to accelerate fielding of the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. 
  • Increases procurement of enduring combat aircraft, armored fighting vehicles, munitions, long-range fires, and short-range fires. 
  • Directs a briefing on the feasibility of land-basing the contents of Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS-3) in a partner nation in the Info-Pacific region. 
  • Increases procurement of combat aircraft and munitions. 
  • Rejects the Air Force proposal to retire 26 F-15E and 32 F-22 aircraft. 
  • Requires the Air Force to maintain 16 E-3 aircraft until the E-3 can be replaced by E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, or until the retirement of the E-3 would create no lapse in Air Force capabilities. 
  • Requires an analysis of how the air superiority mission will be secured for the Joint Force in the 2030s and 2040s and an annual report on the Air Force tactical fighter forcer structure. 
  • Directs a plan for modernizing the strategic tanker fleet with the submission of the budget request for fiscal year 2026. 
  • Requires a Kelly-led plan for modernizing all 25 fighter aircraft squadrons in the Air National Guard, including the 162nd at Morris ANG Base in Tucson.  

Arizona Priorities Requested and Secured by Kelly

MCAS Yuma 

  • Authorizes an increase of $50M for FY25 for a new water treatment plant at MCAS Yuma and authorizes a total of $261.1M over time to complete the plant. The existing water treatment plant at MCAS Yuma was built in 1947.   

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base  

  • Fulfills the $99M Air Force funding request for facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization at DM to prepare for future missions. 
  • Funds procurement of 5 additional HH-60Ws for the Air Force combat search and rescue program that will be based at Davis-Monthan. 

Fort Huachuca 

  • Authorizes the no-cost land conveyance of approximately 203 aces from Ft. Huachuca to the city of Sierra Vista, in order to complete a conveyance effort that began in 2000, with the support of the City of Sierra Vista and the Fort.  
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to analyze the feasibility of establishing a regional joint multi-domain non-kinetic training and experimentation environment to utilize ranges like Fort Huachuca for more advanced electronic warfare training.  
  • Directs a report analyzing the impact a new Pathfinder program on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and non-kinetic, electronic warfare, and advanced military technologies would have on Army combat effectiveness.    

Yuma Proving Ground 

  • Authorizes $1M in planning and design funds to begin the repair and replacement of Pole Line Road, a critical interior test road running through Yuma Proving Ground, which has posed safety concerns to military and civilian personnel.  

Luke Air Force Base 

  • Authorizes $420k for planning and design of a new Administrative and Storage Building for the 944th Security Forces at Luke Air Force Base (AFB).  
  • Encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to include construction funds in next year’s defense budget for Child Development Centers that have received planning and design funding, such as the one at Luke AFB. Kelly secured funding for Luke AFB’s Child Development Center in previous years. 

Defense Community 

  • Establishes a pilot program to expand small business and university access to facilities where they can securely perform work on existing classified contracts.  

Strengthening Friendly Fire Notifications 

  • Building on Kelly’s efforts to right the wrongs of the U.S. military failing to properly inform servicemembers or their next of kin of the details surrounding a 2004 friendly fire incident that led to the death of two Marines, including an Arizonan, Kelly included a request for the military to strengthen notification efforts to those impacted by friendly fire incidents. It also directs a report on current friendly fire notification processes and assessment of additional notification policies that could be needed. 

Strengthening Maritime Strength and Recruitment Pipeline 

  • At Kelly’s urging, requires Secretary of Defense to brief Congress on how DoD and the U.S. Maritime Administration could cooperate to address recruitment challenges.   
  • Includes a Kelly provision supporting U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps as a cost-effective program to inspire future servicemembers and urging the Secretary of the Navy to publicize funding requests for the program in future years. 
  • With Kelly’s leadership, directs the Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing on available authorities and tools DoD can use to support domestic shipbuilding and supporting industries. 

Nuclear Program Oversight and Assessment 

  • Requires a Kelly-requested Comptroller General assessment on the costs and tradeoffs of Department of Defense and National Nuclear Security Administration efforts to establish a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile program. 

Protecting U.S. Military Installations and Capabilities 

  • Includes provisions authored by Kelly to establish a national strategy to address drone incursions, establish clear lines of engagement and response with the Department of Justice, and require the Secretary of Defense to identify gaps in its authorities, policies, and resources to adequately mitigate, respond to, and address drone incursions. It will also provide Congress with a clear understanding of the DoD’s plans and identify any gaps in its authorities, law, policy, or resources needed to address unauthorized drone incursions that pose national security risks. 
  • Includes Kelly proposal to require a report from the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, on the Chinese military’s efforts to collect information about U.S. military tactics, techniques, and procedures and how foreign companies seek to obscure their connection to the Chinese military for such purposes. Requires an assessment of the counterintelligence threats to former servicemembers and DoD employees who conduct commercial training services and the potential to establish a process for vetting foreign-owned companies.  

Security Cooperation and Foreign Policy: 

  • Includes provisions from Kelly and Senator Romney’s Bolstering Info-Pacific Capabilities Act to shore up U.S. military logistics lines and improve readiness in the region, including a compromise to establish a pilot program for scheduled maintenance and repair of certain forward-deployed naval ships in foreign shipyards. 
  • Authorizes the full budget request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) and the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI). 
  • Requires a plan for the establishment of joint force headquarters subordinate to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in Japan and Australia. 
  • Authorizes an Indo-Pacific Security Assistance Initiative and authorizes DOD to provide defense articles and services to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. 
  • Requires DOD engagement with appropriate officials from Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea for the purpose of establishing multilateral security assistance initiatives with the military forces of foreign partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region. And requires a plan for advancing trilateral security cooperation among the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. 
  • Increases support for U.S.-Israel counter-tunneling cooperation. 
  • Includes a Kelly-backed assessment of the current and anticipated U.S. force posture requirements and access agreements in the Sahel and West Africa.

Support for Servicemembers:  

  • Includes a 4.5 percent pay raise for military members and a 2 percent pay raise for Department of Defense civilian employees. 
  • Increases monthly basic pay for junior enlisted servicemembers in the grades of E-1 through E-3, in addition to the force-wide pay raise. 
  • Authorizes servicemembers without dependents who live in military unaccompanied housing to be paid higher rates of the Partial Basic Allowance for Housing. 
  • Increases funding to repair and improve enlisted barracks across the services. 
  • Includes Kelly-backed assessment on the adequacy of basic allowance for housing and DOD federal civilian locality adjustment in areas with unique housing markets, as well as adverse secondary impacts to servicemembers, DoD civilians, and families. 

Click here for the complete executive summary.