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House Approves Defense Authorization Act With Strong Bipartisan Support

September 24, 2021 by Dan McCue
House Approves Defense Authorization Act With Strong Bipartisan Support
Bravo Company completes the Crucible (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Yarbrough, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island)

WASHINGTON — Members of the House might not agree on much these days, but one thing they do seem to be in agreement on is that passing the annual defense spending authorization falls into the same rarified category as mom and apple pie.

On Thursday, the House voted 316-113 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2022 fiscal year. It now falls to the Senate to pass its own version of the bill, so that the two chambers can work out differences between their respective bills in conference committee.

The House version includes a 2.7% pay raise for service members and expands parental leave, while restoring health care programs previously cut by the administration.

The bill itself does not authorize spending, but rather sets out defense policy for which spending has been approved. A separate appropriations bill would have to be passed to put the NDAA into effect.

A total of 38 Democrats and 75 Republicans voted against the $778 billion measure.

Given that House consideration of the NDAA came less than a month after the conclusion of the war in Afghanistan and the controversial evacuation that followed, it wasn’t surprising to see a large number of last-minute war-related provisions among the nearly 500 amendments considered for the bill.

Among these is a provision that would establish an independent commission to examine the lessons learned from America’s longest war.

After passage of the bill, several members released statements touting their district-focused amendments to the bill.

These included Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who pointed to the inclusion of several of his bills including one intended to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, another eliminating workforce barriers for immigrant families, and still another to address cases of sexual harassment in public housing.

The NDAA also includes Katko’s Onward to Opportunity Act, a measure creating a pilot program within the Defense Department to expand workforce development services for service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was another member who saw a number of her amendments accepted. These included a Spanberger-cosponsored provision requiring the Defense Department to provide reserve and National Guard members with incentives and special duty pay at the same level as their active-duty counterparts.

The bipartisan bill includes several amendments led by Spanberger — including her legislation to recognize Atomic Veterans, respond to “Havana Syndrome” incidents, strengthen America’s 5G security, and combat financial threats posed by the Chinese government. 

Also contributing significantly to the final House bill was Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. 

Among the Murphy-led measures were a provision requiring the secretary of Defense to swiftly brief key members of Congress if the secretary determines with high confidence that a foreign government is seeking to kill or severely injure U.S. service members; a measure that provides the Department of Defense with $5 million to conduct a competition in which small businesses in the modeling and simulation sector are awarded prizes for developing technological solutions to emerging national security challenges, and two measures aimed at strengthening the United States’ alliance with Israel.

A bipartisan amendment submitted in partnership with Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Brad Schneider, D-Ill., would create a United States-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group that would develop methods and practices to share intelligence-informed, military capability requirements, and provide a stand-alone forum designed to strengthen efforts to overcome current and future threats.

The $778 billion in funding that would be authorized by the NDAA is about $25 billion more than Biden proposed in his fiscal 2022 budget request. That helped it garner support from Republicans, who had argued the president’s budget proposal was inadequate to deal with threats from Russia and, particularly, China.

Biden’s proposal was actually $13 billion more than the Trump administration’s final defense budget. 

“The administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the nation,” the White House said in a written statement.

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