Saturday, September 16, 2017

Senate Amendments to HR 2810 (FY 2018 NDAA) – 9-14-17

On Thursday, after voting to close debate on the McCain substitute language amendment (SA 1003), the Senate agreed to a final vote on HR 2810, the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), at 5:30 pm EDT on Monday, September 18th, 2017. Meanwhile, more amendments continue to be proposed. In addition to the previously proposed amendments (see here, here, here, here and here) a large number of possible amendments to HR 2180 were proposed in the Senate on Thursday; only one of which may be of specific interest to readers of this blog:

SA 1089. Mr. KAINE -  SEC. 1661. Cyber Scholarship Opportunities Act of 2017 (pgs S5768-9);

Cyber Scholarships

Amendment SA 1089 is pretty nearly the same as SA 849 that Sen. Kaine (D,VA) proposed on September 7th, 2017. The only difference is that the latest version removes the section on ‘Findings’ that explains why Kaine thinks that cyber scholarships are necessary.

This amendment would require that the current Federal Cyber Scholarship-for Service program (15 USC 7442) be expanded to include a pilot program of scholarships at at least five community colleges for students who are pursuing associate degrees or specialized program certifications in the field of cybersecurity and either “have bachelor’s degrees; or are veterans of the armed forces” {§1662(a)(2)}. No additional funding is provided for the new scholarship requirements.


Just a reminder, as of this writing, none of the amendments that I have addressed in this series of blog post (with the obvious exception of SA 1003) have even been considered on the floor of the House, much less adopted. There is a remote chance that some may be considered on Monday, but I do not really expect it.

This large number of amendments proposed for a ‘must pass’ bill like the NDAA is not unusual. With the political horse trading involved in getting enough votes to pass a bill like this, there is always the possibility that some pet bit of legislative language can be inserted via the Senate amendment process. It takes relatively little effort by a Senator’s staff to craft most of these amendments (frequently just cut and paste from a previously submitted bill), so it is kind of like buying a $1 lottery ticket when the pot is really high. A piece of legislation that might never see the light of day in the normal legislative process can become law because it was attached to an important bill.

A less well-known fact is that one of these little suspected gems may have already been added to the substitute language that was offered on this bill. I certainly did not do a full detailed analysis of every portion of the bill. Getting a new section added or a current section slightly revised can be the price of support for a bill like this. Depending on how much McCain trusts his committee staff and how significant the change was, he may not even know the details about those types of changes to the substitute language before it was proposed.

This is one of the reasons that I do not try to cover each of the potentially interesting amendments with the same level of detail as I use to cover interesting legislation. There is a very small chance of the amendments being considered or passed. The effort that I do make, reflects on bits of legislative language that I find illustrative of either poorly or well written legislative language, unique ideas, or really slick pieces of legislative legerdemain. 

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