Senate Passes Annual Defense Policy Bill with Bipartisan Support

The Senate has passed its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a bipartisan 86-11 vote, totaling $886 billion.

The bill’s approval comes after two weeks of debate, during which the Senate avoided many of the culture war issues that the House included in its version of the NDAA.

Now, Senate and House leaders must work to reconcile the differences between the two bills and create a compromise version that can receive President Joe Biden’s signature. However, significant disagreements exist between the competing bills.

The House passed a more partisan defense bill, including provisions to undo the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, restrict funding for transgender troops’ medical procedures, and limit diversity training and programs. This version faced strong opposition from House Democrats and is unlikely to pass the Senate, where bipartisan support is required.

The Senate version includes some conservative wins, such as prohibiting the Pentagon from creating positions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion until the Government Accountability Office issues a report on those programs. It also sets a salary cap for personnel handling diversity and inclusion issues and mandates the disposal of unused border wall materials while addressing drug and human trafficking on the southern border.

During the Senate’s final vote, tough amendments were considered, including proposals to limit specific flags flown over military bases and a call to slash the Pentagon budget by 10 percent, both of which were ultimately rejected.

The upcoming negotiations between the Senate and House are expected to be challenging, with notable differences between the parallel bills extending beyond social issues. For instance, the House included a GOP-led proposal to establish an inspector general to oversee funds assisting Ukraine, while the Senate rejected similar watchdog proposals. Other discrepancies relate to the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office and the potential creation of a Cyber Force.

The NDAA legislation authorizes $844.3 billion for the Pentagon and $32.4 billion for the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs. It also includes funding for a San Antonio-class amphibious warship and matches the Pentagon’s request for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. Additionally, a 5.2 percent pay raise for military personnel is included.

The NDAA legislation also includes nonbinding language that warns the current national defense spending limit set by a recent debt ceiling deal is insufficient and urges President Biden to request emergency supplemental funding for various needs, including Ukraine and munitions production.

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