The Latest on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
On Tuesday, the House Rules Committee advanced a structured rule for House floor consideration of 476 amendments to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA provides annual authorization of appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) and defense-related activities at other federal agencies. Congressional appropriations committees are responsible for providing budget authority, while the NDAA provides guidance on how defense-related funds should be used, establishes national security policies and restrictions, and creates or continues national security programs. Viewed as “must-pass” legislation, the NDAA routinely carries a range of policy and programmatic matters not directly related to national defense.
During the full committee’s markup of the NDAA in September, more than a dozen House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Democrats defied President Biden by joining with Republicans to increase the Pentagon’s budget to $740 billion from the $715 billion requested by the White House. Even those that opposed the increase acknowledge and respect that outcome. HASC Chair Adam Smith, for example, said Monday,
I think the Biden budget was right, but I do believe in democracy. We had a vote and I lost and I support the bill.”
Rules Committee Chairman McGovern shared the same perspective,
from my vantage point, I think we spend too much on our military budget. But I’m clearly in the minority after listening to everybody here speak today.”
Late Tuesday, the House began general debate and amendment votes with the process expected to carry into Wednesday and Thursday. A package of several uncontroversial amendments will be considered (and likely adopted) as one large en bloc amendment, while more contentious items will be considered as individual amendments.
The House will spend much of Wednesday and Thursday debating and voting on impactful amendments and voting as to whether these amendments will be included in the House version of the NDAA. Democrats will attempt to pull back the reported increase, offering an amendment to decrease the bill’s topline number to the President’s original $715 billion request and otherwise cut the NDAA topline funding level by 10 percent. Additional noteworthy amendments cleared by the Rules Committee that are now subject to the full House vote include the following amendments that would:
Add the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act, which allows state-legal cannabis businesses to access the banking system and help improve public safety by reducing the amount of cash at these businesses;
Expand and codify sanctions on Russian sovereign debt;
Expand the FY21 NDAA to explicitly include semiconductor materials; and
Require the Department of Defense to establish plans to clean up contaminated military sites where the military failed to clean-up newly discovered contaminates.
On June 22, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) voted 23-3 to advance its version of the FY22 NDAA. The Senate has yet to release the SASC-passed bill but did release an executive summary. At this point, it is expected that the SASC-passed NDAA will be brought to the Senate Floor the week of October 18th.
Upon passage of their respective bills, Congressional leaders from both chambers will meet to conference the final legislation, though initial staff-level discussions or “pre-conferencing” on especially uncontroversial provisions in both bills may have already begun. Timing for conference legislation is uncertain, as prioritization of the NDAA depends on competing legislation such as federal funding, reconciliation, the debt limit, and infrastructure, but passage of the annual defense bill is expected in both chambers with bipartisan support, likely before the end of the year.
We will continue to follow the FY22 NDAA process closely. Opportunities to advance a variety of policy priorities will continue in the Senate, and again possibly during the conference process.