What’s in the recently-passed National Defense Authorization Act?

The repeal of the military’s vaccine mandate put this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, in the spotlight. The repeal, however, is just one of the many provisions attached to the $847 billion bill that outlines military policy and spending priorities. The NDAA also sets aside an additional $10.6 billion for activities outside of its jurisdiction, bringing its topline to about $858 billion.  

President Joe Biden signed the measure into law on Friday, December 23; among other things, it authorized sending $800 million to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and outlining $816.7 billion for the Department of Defense alone.  

The bill also wades into military policy itself, limiting the Biden administration’s own efforts to retire the powerful B83 gravity bomb until the military identifies ‘a suitable replacement,’ according to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. The B83 bomb is said to be 80 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and the administration announced intentions to replace it in 2022 due to rising maintenance costs and limits on its abilities.  But most Republican lawmakers oppose that effort.  The ranking Republican on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn, says the bill ‘restores funding for the nuclear C launched cruise missile and prohibits retirement of the B-83 gravity bomb.  It replenishes American stocks of munitions that have been provided to Ukraine and have begun to be depleted.’

Additionally, the bill authorizes a 4.6 percent pay raise for service members and Department of Defense workforce, along with additional funding to account for inflation, which hit a 40-year high earlier this year.  

Overall, the NDAA adds up to billions of dollars more than President Biden had originally requested. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi – the outgoing Speaker of the House – acknowledged high price tag but claims the costliest NDAA in history is necessary. ‘There’s some reluctance about a higher defense bill, but our needs are greater,’ Pelosi said.  

Defense funding has passed without fail every year since 1961, usually with overwhelming bipartisan support, though this year 11 senators voted against the bill.  

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