Amid rising inflation in the United States, the House Armed Service Committee has reportedly adopted a massive $840 billion defense bill which includes helping US service personnel get through continued rising consumer prices.
The defense policy bill is reported to be one of the measures that can tremendously lift those low-paid service members, especially in times of economic difficulty. The sweeping defense bill also included more support for Ukraine in terms of purchasing new equipment for the Ukrainian forces.
After 16 hours of continuous debate for the sweeping defense bill, the committee voted 57-1 in favor of passing their version of the massive bill entitled the “National Defense Authorization Act” or simply, “NDAA.” Notably, only Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, voted against the measure. For our non-military readers, the NDAA is an annual bill that dictates the Pentagon budget and how it is used for various defense and military-related policies and projects.
The bill has been subject to rigorous debate, with Democratic leaders sticking by President Biden’s plan for a 4% increase in defense spending for 2023. However, centrists and Republicans have also fought for increased spending amid rising inflation costs.
With the House Armed Services Committee’s version passed and the Senate’s version released prior, lawmakers from both chambers of legislation can now discuss a final version of the defense policy bill ultimately to come to a compromise.
What’s In the Defense Bill?
The most salient provision of the bill is that of the inflation bonuses that will go to US service members in an attempt to give respite amid rising inflation. A 2.4% inflation bonus will specifically go directly to service members and employees of the Department of Defense who only make less than $45,000 annually.
According to reports, there would be tranches or monthly installments throughout 2023 to pay these bonuses to our service members and Department of Defense civilians. This resulted in an amendment to the NDAA, adding $37 billion to the bill. This now brings the bill’s total cost to be around $840 billion, with $6 billion earmarked specifically to address inflation with regard to fuel costs and construction costs within the military.
More so, the bill also features a 4.6% pay raise for troops, the largest in over twenty years. This included a myriad of bonuses, specialty pay, and other benefits.
Interestingly, the amendment regarding the extra $37 billion was opposed by top Democrats as it would authorize billions more than what is needed to procure military equipment, vehicles, ships, and aircraft, among others.
Representative Adam Smith (D-Washington) had expressed that the particular amendments had many good things that they would introduce to help service members cope with inflation. However, he also explained that “quantity” (referring to money) does not have innate “quality,” referring to procuring extra hardware.
“That’s one of the dumbest damn things I’ve ever heard. If you have a hundred different things that are incapable of doing anything, you’re not better off if you’ve got 200,” he said.
Ultimately, 14 centrists supported the amendment, much to the Republicans’ delight. The amendment included a correction for rising inflation, with $3.5 billion for military construction, $2.5 billion for fuel costs, and $1.4 billion for other inflation costs. It passed the committee level at 42-17.
However, it is important to note that Smith also praised the bill’s passage. It was evident that the two parties could work together for good funding for defense programs. He was also delighted that the service members are getting a pay raise that is the highest in over 20 years.
“The bill supports the largest service member pay raise in decades, expands the talent pipeline, and partners with research institutions to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies that will support those in uniform,” he stated.
“I am particularly proud that this year’s [National Defense Authorization Act] includes a package of bold reforms that will help mitigate and prevent civilian harm in the course of military operations,” he added.
The bill would also fund a number of projects that the services did not include in their budget proposals. Some of these include an additional $3.6 billion for a destroyer, two expeditionary ships, a frigate, and a T-AO oiler. It also allows some $2 billion for eight more F/A-18s and a number of US Navy and US Marine Corps aircraft. $1.2 billion will be used to procure 4 Patriot air defense systems (MIM-104 Patriot) and 20 additional THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense systems. Lastly, it also includes a $400 million budget for munitions development.
The bill also funds the advanced planning for US troops along NATO’s eastern front through a $550 million security assistance to Europe and Ukraine. Note that the US is the leading contributor of military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, with over $6 billion given to Kyiv since the invasion started on February 24.
As the defense bill gets the approval from the House, we’ll be on the lookout for more developments with the bill as it goes through the legislative process.