On Thursday, Congress passed an $886 billion defense policy bill for 2024, raising government spending on military and aid for Ukraine while strengthening the United States’ stance in the Indo-Pacific region to keep an eye on Chinese actions.
The bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) came after months of controversial debate and negotiations between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.
The House of Representatives passed the bill by a bipartisan vote of 310 to 118, while the Senate voted to pass the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 87 to 13. The bill has reached the White House for President Joe Biden’s approval to become a law.
The NDAA bill authorizes $886 billion for military spending with several other provisions to help the country take a stronger lead in defending itself, marking one of the few major pieces of legislation passed this year.
Bipartisan Support Amidst Dropped Amendments:
While the NDAA bill has passed Congress for multiple decades, this year’s bill has become controversial, receiving several months of discussion over its policies. The bill passed both chambers with strong bipartisan support. Both chambers introduced their version of bills earlier in July, with Republicans and Democrats outlining their policies for several issues.
Hard-right Republican conservatives in the House initially proposed to ban the Pentagon from covering travel expenses for service members pursuing abortions and also stop funding for a health care program that covers hormone treatments for transgender and gender-affirmation surgeries for service members. However, these two proposals have not been included in the final bill. The Republicans also wanted to cut Ukraine funding by $300 million, but this provision could not harness enough votes.
Nonetheless, according to information provided by the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee, the final bill includes measures to “end wokeness in the military,” prohibiting funding for the teaching, training, or promotion of critical race theory in the military, including at-service academies and Department of Defense schools.
In conclusion, the final NDAA bill compromises the extra-conservative House provisions and moderate Senate proposals. The latest bill has declined some of the provisions proposed by Republicans and some by Democrats and has provisions supported and opposed by different groups.
Local Impacts and Military Support:
The NDAA bill primarily focuses on national security and military support. According to the House Armed Services Committee details, the NDAA bill proposed $886 billion for national defense and a 5.2% pay increase for service members, $38 million for family housing, and $350 million for barracks.
The bill has provisions to help military spouses with businesses by expanding funding to move their businesses when service members transfer. Spouses working for the federal government will be eligible for telework to keep their government jobs. The bill also contains provisions to temporarily extend section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes the federal government to collect information about non-U.S citizens.
Additionally, the NDAA comprises provisions to complete the decommissioning of the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) and transfer its remaining land to the community in Colorado.
Conservative Wins and Remaining Challenges:
Although the NDAA bill has not included many conservative ideologies in its final version, it still has some conservative provisions. The bill restricts critical race theory at military academies and prohibits the flying of ‘unauthorized flags’ at military installations. This provision aims to prohibit the use of LGBTQ banners.
The bill also proposed restrictions on hiring freezes and pay caps on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs (DEI).
The NDAA is a significant and necessary bill to safeguard national security. However, the bill raises concerns about potential challenges the country may face. The notable increase in military spending poses a threat to long-term fiscal sustainability. As such, many GOP leaders and economists have argued that the federal government needs to follow a more balanced approach to financial spending.
Certain NDAA proposals, such as continued military and financial support for Ukraine, have faced opposition from some Republican lawmakers. The bill highlighted the huge disagreements on foreign policy with Congress, which is not recommended for a balanced democracy.
Focus on Ukraine and Oversight:
The NDAA bill primarily contains provisions for the defense department and military personnel of the United States. However, the bill for the fiscal year 2024 has also contained several millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and Israel.
With a special focus on the Ukraine-Russia war, the bill proposed the creation of a Special Inspector General for Operation Atlantic Resolve to supervise the weapons and equipment sent to Ukraine. This way, the United States can help Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia while also supervising its aid to Ukraine.
Closing Hurdles and Negotiations:
Although the NDAA bill successfully passed both chambers, it faced extensive challenges initially. The bill received several hurdles in the Senate on Wednesday night; some senators strongly opposed it.
Before the final voting, a Republican Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, attempted to strip out the four-month extension of Section 702 surveillance authority.
Democratic Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet, also tried blocking the bill’s passage and delaying the voting to convince leaders for border negotiations. Despite multiple last-minute hurdles created by some senators, the NDAA bill found its way to the House the next day and soon to the President’s desk.
Congress has finally passed the most complex and controversial NDAA bill for 2024, highlighting the government spending on a country’s defense. The bill’s passage underlines significant bipartisan support in a highly polarised political environment and sheds light on the importance of bipartisan support in both positive and negative ways.
Subscribe to Email Updates :