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US Lawmakers Pass Sweeping $886 Billion Defense Spending Bill

Written by on December 14, 2023

U.S. lawmakers passed the massive annual defense spending bill Thursday, approving the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 310-118 to be signed into law by President Joe Biden. The bill setting policy and spending priorities for the Department of Defense for 2024 is $28 billion larger than last year’s spending bill, an increase of around three percent.

“The NDAA is one of the most consequential bills Congress considers,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Passage of this bill each year sends an important signal to the men and women defending our freedom that Congress can function and will prioritize their needs. Above all else, enacting the NDAA has never been more vital than today. America and our allies face unprecedented and rapidly evolving threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorist organizations throughout the world.”

The bill authorizes a 5.2 percent pay raise for US service members, extends the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through 2027 and provides funding for security cooperation among the US, United Kingdom and Australia.

The U.S. Senate passed the NDAA late Wednesday by a vote of 87-13.

“We’ll strengthen our resources in the Indo-Pacific, to deter aggression by the Chinese government, and give resources for the military in Taiwan. We’ll give DOD more resources to deploy and develop AI, protect against foreign cyber threats, increase the transparency of Unidentified Areal Phenomena,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday night after passage.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also praised the NDAA on the Senate floor, saying the legislation, “recognizes the need to strengthen America’s position in strategic competition with China through targeted improvements to critical capabilities – from long-range fires and anti-ship weapons to modernizing our nuclear triad. It’ll authorize further investments in the defense industrial base and expand efficiency and accountability of the lethal assistance degrading Russia’s military in Ukraine. It’ll turbo-charge cooperation with Israel on future missile defense technologies and ensure our closest ally in the Middle East can access the U.S. capabilities it needs, when it needs them.”

FILE - Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel.
FILE – Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel.

Earlier this year, the Republican-majority U.S. House passed a more conservative version of the NDAA that would have eliminated many progressive policies providing access to abortion and transgender care. Those amendments were not in the final version of the legislation that passed Thursday.

A joint Senate-House Conference committee worked out the compromise legislation that was passed by both chambers this week.

Rogers described the bill passed Thursday as a good compromise, saying on the House floor Thursday, “It goes a long way toward ending woke policies being forced on our service members by left wing bureaucrats. It includes provisions that ban critical race theory and require promotions based on merit. It includes several provisions that require accountability from the administration like in its Special Inspector General for Ukraine, Ukraine aid and the deadline for the DOD to finally pass an audit.”

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday the NDAA “solidifies our alliances with our European allies, with our allies in Asia and with Israel and our allies in the Middle East to meet the threats that we face. You cannot oppose this bill and claim that you support the national security of this country.”

Forty-five Democrats and seventy-three Republicans voted against the NDAA Thursday, with many conservative Republicans objecting to the extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The controversial intelligence program allows the US government to collect the communications of foreign nationals without a warrant. Conservatives allege the program has been misused to violate the privacy of Americans.

“What’s being stated is it is impossible to oppose the National Defense Authorization Act because we put a pay raise in it or because we put something in there that is seemingly so important that we have to ignore the critical destruction of our civil liberties by adding FISA extension – without doing the reforms necessary to protect the American people,” Republican Rep. Chip Roy said Thursday.

Smith acknowledged that FISA authorizations are in need of reform.

“There’s no question about that. Nobody I know of, however, says that it should completely go away. If we don’t do it on this bill, it completely goes away on January 1, which is a huge national security threat to this country – universally agree.”

U.S. lawmakers are still negotiating the White House’s $106 billion national security supplemental request that includes $60 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as well as nearly $14 billion to assist Israel in the conflict with Hamas.

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