US Lawmakers Pass Sweeping $886 Billion Defense Spending Bill

US Lawmakers Pass Sweeping $886 Billion Defense Spending Bill – U.S. legislators endorsed the substantial annual defense budget, giving the green light to the $886 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a 310-118 vote. President Joe Biden is set to sign the bill into law. This legislation, dictating policy and financial allocations for the Department of Defense in 2024, surpasses last year’s spending by $28 billion, marking an approximately three percent rise.

“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.”

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“America and our allies face unprecedented and rapidly evolving threats from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorist organizations throughout the world.” The legislation grants a 5.2 percent salary increase for U.S. service members, prolongs the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative until 2027, and allocates funds for security collaboration among the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia. 

The NDAA received Senate approval on Wednesday night with 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.” At the beginning of the year, the U.S. House, led by Republicans, approved a more conservative iteration of the NDAA, seeking to remove numerous progressive policies related to abortion and transgender care. 

However, these amendments were excluded from the final version of the legislation ratified on Thursday. A joint committee comprising members from the Senate and House collaborated on the compromise legislation, which gained approval from 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.”

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“You cannot oppose this bill and claim that you support the national security of this country.” On Thursday, forty-five Democrats and seventy-three Republicans opposed the NDAA, notably due to concerns among conservative Republicans about extending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This contentious intelligence program enables the U.S. government to gather communications from foreign nationals without a warrant. 

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With conservatives contending that it has been misused, leading to violations of Americans’ privacy. “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 currently in discussions regarding the White House’s $106 billion national security supplemental request, which encompasses $60 billion for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, along with nearly $14 billion to support Israel in its conflict with Hamas.

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