WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 81-13 on Jan. 1 to override President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.  

The New Year’s Day vote marked the first time Congress successfully overturned Trump’s veto. The House voted in favor of the override on Dec. 28 by a vote of 322-87. Following the Senate’s vote, the NDAA will be enacted into law. Two-thirds majorities are needed in the House and Senate to overturn a presidential veto.

“I’m glad the Senate voted once again, by a wide bipartisan margin, for this bill — the most important bill we do each and every year, for 60 years in a row,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a statement.

The defense policy bill authorizes $740.5 billion for national defense spending and sets policies on military compensation, procurement of equipment, operations and training. 

Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected Trump’s effort to derail the bill over issues that had nothing to do with national defense such as the president’s demand that the NDAA include a provision to repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Act that protects social media companies from legal liability for content posted by users.

 Trump also opposed provisions in the NDAA directing the Pentagon to change the names of military installations that commemorate Confederate generals.

The 2021 NDAA is named after Rep. Mac Thornberry, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who is retiring from Congress.

Thornberry said in a statement that he hopes Americans are “encouraged to see that, at least on national security, the parties can work together and our system of government under the Constitution works as intended.”

The bill contains several provisions on national security space and the U.S. Space Force:

  • The Department of the Air Force must provide an acquisition strategy for the procurement of space systems by May 15. Congress is especially concerned about how the Space Force will accelerate procurement of next-generation technology and take advantage of commercial industry’s innovations.
  • The secretary of the Air Force must provide a report on the selection process and criteria used to determine the permanent site for Space Command headquarters.
  • The Space Force is directed to start research and development projects to promote competition in the National Security Space Launch program. The bill authorizes up to $90 million in fiscal year 2021 for new R&D programs focused on launch technologies.
  • The Air Force has to procure commercial space domain awareness services from at least two contractors.
  • The Pentagon has to establish a small launch and satellite policy to ensure “responsive and reliable access to space through the processing and launch of Department of Defense small-class payloads.”
  • The Defense Department and the intelligence community have to leverage, as much as practicable, commercial geospatial-intelligence services and acquire domestic commercial satellite imagery.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...