Updated 12/15/21 3:16 PM ET: The result of the final tally was updated after Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., changed his vote.
This year’s defense policy bill was $25 billion higher than the Biden administration’s FY22 budget request, boosting Pentagon funding for deterrence initiatives in the Indo-Pacific and Europe as the department pivots to competition with Russia and China. The NDAA passed the House of Representatives, 363-70, last week.
“This year’s defense bill also makes excellent progress toward meeting the challenge of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It invests in the people, the platforms and the game-changing technologies that will define the future.”
“This bill provides our military with the resources and authorities they need to defend our country — which is more important now than it’s ever been before, at least in my lifetime,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “This bill sends a clear message to our allies — that the United States remains a reliable, credible partner — and to our adversaries — that the US military is prepared and fully able to defend our interests around the world.”
The NDAA boosts funding for the China-focused Pacific Deterrence Initiative to $7.1 billion, up from $5 billion in the Biden administration’s FY22 request. Lawmakers wrote in the explanatory text accompanying the bill that the Pentagon’s PDI budget request was too focused on specific platforms. Congress’ PDI funding aims to set a “baseline steady state presence” in the Indo-Pacific, with funds dedicated to building partnerships in the region, increasing flight hours and steaming days, or days when ships are at sea.
The bill also boosts funding to $4 billion for the PDI’s counterpart in Europe, the European Deterrence Initiative, about $570 million over the Pentagon’s budget request. Congress also authorized $300 million for the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative amid a buildup of Russian soldiers along Ukraine’s border.
Lawmakers approved the retirement of more than 160 legacy aircraft for the Air Force, freeing up money for the service to invest in new technologies, but members once again stifled the service’s hopes to retire A-10 Warthogs. The Air Force will be allowed to retire all the aircraft it proposed divesting of in its FY22 budget request, including the 47 F-16C/Ds, 48 F-15C/D Eagles, four E-8 JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft and 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance drones.
Congress imposed significant restrictions on the F-35 program under defense legislation, restricting planned procurement of the jet by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps unless sustainment costs meet the services’ targets.
The bill also includes language restricting funding for programs within the Pentagon and other agencies developing air- and space-based radar systems to track moving targets to 75 percent of their budget, pending a review by the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, amid concern by Congress about duplication of efforts.
Assuming Biden signs the legislation, the bill would also kick off a Afghanistan War Commission to review the nearly two decades of war there.
NDAA passes Senate at $740 billion; heads to Biden’s desk – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Andrew Eversden for breakingdefense.com