House Votes to Pass Bill Boosting Defense Spending, With Inflation Help for Troops

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NDAA proposal also mandates creation of UFO reporting system

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“This year, it has been particularly challenging, given the rate of inflation,” said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Mr. Smith said the bill would help service members and their families deal with climbing costs for housing and other necessities.

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The bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act would give troops a 4.6% pay raise, and provide a minimum 2.4% “inflation bonus” for military and civilian personnel who earn less than $45,000 a year. Consumer inflation hit a four-decade high in June, rising to 9.1%.

The bill would also add $750 million in funding for base commissaries to help reduce costs of groceries and other essentials for military families, $500 million for housing allowances to offset rising rents, and codify a $15 minimum wage for workers on federal service and construction contracts.

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The Senate is expected to pass its own $858.5 billion version of the NDAA in the coming weeks. Lawmakers will then work behind closed doors to reconcile both chambers’ bills before sending compromise legislation to the president’s desk for his signature.

The Biden administration said in a statement earlier this week that it strongly opposes the inflation bonus, which it said would “create significant pay inequities among Federal civilian employees” and create other problems with pay adjustments in 2024, as drafted.

The Biden administration’s budget would have eliminated funding to develop a new nuclear-capable cruise missile that could be launched from ships or submarines. But the House NDAA authorizes $45 million in funding for the missile’s research and development, while requiring more studies before the weapon can advance to system development and demonstration, or development engineering.

The bill would preserve five of nine littoral combat ships—high-tech, fast-moving ships with lean crews designed to pursue pirates, detect mines and ply coastal waters—that the Navy wants to retire early following controversy over its performance and capabilities. An amendment offered by Mr. Smith would have allowed the Navy to retire all nine, but it failed, with 208 in favor and 221 as opposed. “Throwing good money after bad doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Smith said, adding that littoral combat ships have no capability in helping the US against China. “It wouldn’t survive for two seconds in a fight against China. We all know that,” he said.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R., Va.) argued that the ship does have capability against China and noted that its replacement is still about six years away. “You can’t fight something with nothing,” Mr. Wittman said.

Other provisions in the House bill would designate $1 billion for security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces—$700 million above Mr. Biden’s budget request—and give the mayor of the District of Columbia control over the DC National Guard, on par with state governors. Currently, the president controls the DC National Guard.

The legislation also would prevent the president from selling or exporting new F-16s to Turkey unless Mr. Biden certifies to Congress that such transfers are in America’s national interest, and it would repeal 2002 and 1991 authorizations for the use of military force in Iraq, along with a less-known 1957 authorization passed during the Cold War to counter “the possibility of Communist aggression” in the Middle East.

One measure added to the bill by voice vote during the amendment process on the House floor Wednesday would mandate the creation of a secure government reporting system to encourage current and former military personnel, contractors and civilian government employees to share information about “unidentified aerial phenomena, ” otherwise known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, even if they had been constrained by orders or nondisclosure agreements in the past. The provision prohibits reprisals against federal employees or contractors for reporting UFOs through the system and requires regular reports to Congress. Earlier this year, the House held the first congressional hearing on UFOs in 50 years.

Some Democrats opposed the size of the defense budget, arguing that the federal government should spend less on the Pentagon and more on domestic programs.

One amendment offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) would have reduced the national security budget to the amount Mr. Biden had proposed, cutting the $37 billion increase added by other lawmakers.

“Enough is enough. Americans are demanding that Congress rebalance our priorities and invest in the biggest challenges which we face,” she said. “While I personally support much larger cuts, we need to draw the line somewhere.”

Ms. Lee said the $37 billion could be better spent to extend the child and earned-income tax credits, improve healthcare and pay for hearing benefits for seniors.

Ms. Lee’s amendment failed, with 151 in favor and 277 opposed.

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected]


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