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House readies for Tuesday vote on defense bill

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The 2022 annual defense bill, which authorizes programs and spending guidelines for the Pentagon and other national security programs, includes changes to military prosecutions, more money for Ukraine and a pay raise for service members. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote Tuesday on the bill and then send it along to the Senate for approval.

This year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes a topline funding of $768 billion for defense and national security with $740 billion designated for the Department of Defense — which was $25 billion more for the Pentagon than President Biden had requested.

Ukraine aid

While Russia continues to build up forces near Ukraine’s border, prompting concern in the U.S. and Western Europe, the U.S. plans to send more aid to Ukrainian security forces — the NDAA authorizes a $50 million increase in assistance for this purpose. 

China

To deter China, the bill includes $7.1 billion for the Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative. The Pentagon has repeatedly called China the “pacing challenge” for the Department of Defense. 

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Speaker Pelosi Holds Bill Enrollment On Short Term Funding Bill
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) looks on during a bill enrollment ceremony for H.R. 6119, the Further Extending Government Funding Act at the U.S. Capitol on December 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Both chambers of Congress on Thursday passed a stopgap measure that will fund federal agencies into mid-February and avoid a government shutdown.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images


Sexual assault in the military

One of the highest-profile issues this year in Congress was figuring out how to address sexual assault in the the military. The bill would remove the decision to prosecute crimes of sexual assault and related crimes from the military chain of command, but it would not remove all felonies from the chain of command, as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York advocated

“The sexual assault reform provisions that we have in this bill are the most transformational thing that has been done in this committee in my 25 years of serving,” Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Rules Committee on Tuesday.  “As we all know, for years we have dealt with the reality that sexual assault is not being adequately dealt with in the military.” 

The NDAA also would require the Defense Department to track allegations of retaliation against victims of sexual assault or harassment and third-party individuals who have reported an incident. 

Military hunger

Also on the domestic front, the NDAA addresses the issue of military hunger by requiring the Pentagon to create a basic needs allowance for low-income service members who are below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines, in order to assist them with basic necessities, particularly food.

Military pay raise 

The bill would increase military basic pay for all service members by 2.7%. 

UFOs, Havana Syndrome

Several new organizational bodies are budgeted in this year’s NDAA, including a joint office to track unidentified aerial phenomena, or UFOs, a Pentagon “cross functional team” to confront Havana Syndrome and an independent Afghanistan Commission to study the 20-year war. 

This year’s bill is moving on a slower schedule than in recent years, due in part to disagreements over the amendment process in the Senate and the delay in bringing it to the floor. 

To get the process moving, the House and Senate bills were combined through a series of negotiations by the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. 

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