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Congress Greenlights $886 Billion Defense Budget, Biden Set to Enact Legislation

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A defense policy bill that would have authorized a record-breaking $886 billion in annual military spending was unanimously supported by members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, garnering widespread bipartisan support. Many important policies, such as support for Ukraine and methods to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific area, are included in the recently approved National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA).

The House overwhelmingly supported the NDAA with a vote of 310 to 118, showcasing strong backing from both Republicans and Democrats. This majority surpasses the two-thirds requirement, ensuring the legislation’s journey to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

Distinct from the appropriations bills dictating government spending, the NDAA holds the authority to authorize various aspects, ranging from substantial pay raises for troops – an impressive 5.2% this year – to the procurement of ships, ammunition, and aircraft.

As one of the few annual legislative acts that consistently becomes law, the NDAA serves as a comprehensive vehicle for a myriad of initiatives proposed by Congress members. It draws significant attention from major defense corporations such as Lockheed Martin and RTX Corp, along with other entities benefitting from Department of Defense contracts.

This year’s NDAA, outlined in a nearly 3,100-page document, authorizes a record $886 billion, reflecting a 3% increase from the previous year. The successful passage of this bill marks the 63rd consecutive year of Congress approving the NDAA.

The finalized version of the NDAA intentionally omitted provisions addressing polarizing social issues, including abortion access and the treatment of transgender service members. Initially included in the Republican-majority House’s version, these provisions faced objections from Democrats and risked jeopardizing the legislation’s progress.

Both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the House displayed robust bipartisan support for the NDAA, with the Senate endorsing it by a vote of 87 to 13 on Wednesday.

The fiscal 2024 NDAA also extends a controversial domestic surveillance authority known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for an additional four months. This extension offers lawmakers an extended period to either reform or maintain the program. Despite objections in both the Senate and House, the provision remained intact, as the Senate defeated an attempt to remove the FISA extension before ultimately approving the defense measure.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate individually passed their versions of the NDAA. The recently approved legislation is a harmonious compromise between the two parties and two chambers.

The NDAA for fiscal year 2024 includes a four-month extension of the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, allotting $300 million for the program until the end of 2026. Although vital, this allocation pales in comparison to the $61 billion in assistance for Ukraine sought by President Biden to aid the country in its ongoing struggle against the Russian invasion that commenced in February 2022.

The emergency spending request for Ukraine encounters obstacles in Congress, where Republicans demand a significant toughening of immigration laws as a condition for approving assistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy engaged with lawmakers at the Capitol earlier this week, advocating for the funding requested by Biden. However, the president left the meetings without securing commitments from Republican counterparts.

As the NDAA heads to President Biden’s desk, the unprecedented defense budget and associated policies are poised to shape the nation’s military endeavors and global strategic positioning in the coming year.

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