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In rebuke of Biden’s proposed Pentagon budget cut, senators add $25 billion to annual defense policy bill

WashingtonExaminer
WashingtonExaminer
 2021-07-23

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BOOSTING THE DOD TOPLINE BY $25B: In the end, the argument that the United States has to do far more now to build up its military or risk inviting a war with China over Taiwan carried the day and resulted in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s 23-3 vote Wednesday night to authorize an additional $25 billion to the Pentagon’s budget for 2022.

The vote on the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act was a rebuke of the Biden administration’s argument that the administration’s proposed $715 billion spending plan adequately balanced current and future needs.

And it was a victory for the long-standing recommendations of previous Pentagon and military leaders and a validation of the National Defense Strategy Commission’s conclusion that the U.S. military needs 3% to 5% in annual growth to recover from the years of mandated budget caps to pull off a radical transformation to adapt to a wholesale change in the way future wars will be fought.

“This is a big win for our national security and sends a strong message to both our allies and adversaries that America is prepared to stand up for ourselves and our friends,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe , ranking Republican, after the committee’s marathon markup session, in which the committee considered 321 amendments and adopted 143.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH BIDEN’S $715 BILLION PENTAGON BUDGET

BY THE NUMBERS: The Senate NDAA, which now goes to the floor for debate and possible amendment, would boost U.S. defense spending to a record $778 billion when all related programs are counted and represents an overall increase of 3.1% over the current fiscal year.

Here are the numbers for FY 2022:

  • Department of Defense — $740.3 billion
  • Department of Energy — $27.7 billion
  • NDAA Topline — $768.0 billion
  • Defense-related activities outside NDAA jurisdiction — $9.9 billion
  • National Defense Topline — $777.9 billion

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The Senate Armed Services Committee action, while significant, is hardly the last word on the Pentagon’s budget for the fiscal year that starts in October.

Aside from floor debate in the Senate, beginning next Wednesday, various House Armed Services subcommittees will begin marking up their version of the NDAA, which may have different priorities. And the full House committee is not scheduled to take up the measure until Sept. 1, after the August recess. That will leave just 30 days for House passage and reconciliation with the Senate bill before it can be passed again in its final form and sent to the president to be signed into law.

Plus, the appropriations committees in both houses will have a say since spending money requires both an authorization and a separate appropriation measure.

But the NDAA is a “must-pass” measure that has never failed to be enacted into law for 61 consecutive years. When President Donald Trump vetoed last year’s NDAA over some provisions he didn’t like, Congress swiftly overturned his veto.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE ...

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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin departs on a weeklong trip to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “It's going to be a busy trip,” Austin said this week at a Pentagon news conference . “There's no shortage of national security interests that we and our partners share in this dynamic region, and I'll be carrying a few key messages and agenda items. The first is simply that the United States remains a reliable partner, a friend who shows up when it counts.”

Austin’s trip to the region comes as Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to China this weekend after stops in both Japan and South Korea.

“In the PRC, the Deputy Secretary will travel to Tianjin to meet with PRC officials, including State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi,” the State Department said in announcing the trip, which is the highest-level visit under President Joe Biden . “These discussions are part of ongoing U.S. efforts to hold candid exchanges with PRC officials to advance U.S. interests and values and to responsibly manage the relationship.”

REQUESTS DENIED: The Senate version of the NDAA rebuffs a number of cuts the Biden administration was hoping to use to save money this year while it reviews its overall strategy going forward.

Significantly, the bill rejects a Pentagon plan to delay the acquisition of a second Arleigh Burke-class destroyer until next year, adding $1.7 billion to cover a two-ship buy totaling $3.7 billion.

At the same time, it prohibits the early retirement of naval vessels unless the secretary of the Navy makes certain certifications to Congress. The Navy is proposing to decommission two relatively new Littoral Combat Ships that have failed to deliver promised capabilities.

The measure also nixes the Pentagon plan to retire 42 Air Force A-10 close air support aircraft by prohibiting any reduction in the A-10 fleet in 2022, and it adds one F-35A for the Air Force and five F-35Cs for the Navy.

And it continues restrictions on changes to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which will complicate Biden’s plan to close the facility by banning the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States as well as the use of any funds to “construct or modify” facilities in the United States to house Guantanamo detainees.

SHIPBUILDING: The bill includes over $24 billion for shipbuilding, an increase of more than $2 billion, to purchase two Virginia class submarines, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Constellation-class Frigate and Expeditionary Fast Transport, and other support ships.

MILITARY JUSTICE REFORM: Although we haven’t seen the precise language of the bill, it appears that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand succeeded in her push to get the responsibility for prosecution of all serious crimes, not just sexual assault and domestic violence, removed from commanders and given to prosecutors.

The final version of the NDAA “includes separately the provisions of S. 1520, ‘Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021,’” Gillibrand's stand-alone bill that went beyond the Pentagon’s recommended changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and which was opposed by fellow Democrat Jack Reed , chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

“Chairman Reed has passed out of committee the strongest reforms to the military justice system in U.S. history and I am grateful for his work and leadership,” Gillibrand said in a statement yesterday. The provisions now in the NDAA “will move the prosecution of sexual assault and serious crimes from the chain of command to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. In addition,” she said. “It includes several amendments based on recommendations offered by the Independent Review Commission, as well as important reforms introduced by Senators Tillis and Hawley. We have before us the opportunity to provide our service members with a military justice system worthy of their sacrifice.”

2.7% PAY RAISE: The bill also includes a 2.7% pay raise for both military and DOD civilian workers. The pay raise for the military is mandated by a separate law but is not for civilians. During the Trump administration, uniformed military got their required annual raises, but their civilian counterparts, often working side by side doing the same job, did not.

DRAFTING WOMEN: In a reflection of the changing attitudes toward women in combat, the NDAA would amend the Military Selective Service Act to require the registration of women for Selective Service.

FROM THE PENTAGON BRIEFING: Spokesman John Kirby held an off-camera briefing at the Pentagon yesterday, and we learned a few things.

— The U.S. and Iraq are holding another round of talks as both sides contemplate when the time will be right for the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops to leave. “I think it's important to remember that we are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” Kirby said. “This mission, which was focused on ISIS, was never intended to be permanent, and I think everybody has always understood that there would be a time when there would no longer be a need for U.S. combat forces inside Iraq.”

— The U.S. conducted airstrikes recently to support the Afghan forces battling the Taliban. “I can say that in the last several days, we have acted through airstrikes to support the ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces], but I won't get into tactical details of those strikes,” Kirby said. “We continue to be able to, and we continue to, as the secretary said yesterday, conduct airstrikes in support of the ANDSF. Gen. [Frank] McKenzie has those authorities.”

— The U.S. trained at least seven of the former members of the Colombian military who are accused of taking part in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise this month, some at Fort Benning’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. But Kirby insisted the training was routine and did not involve special operations tactics. The examples he gave were “cadet leadership development, counter-drug operations, noncommissioned officer professional development, small-unit leadership training, human rights training, emergency medical training, some helicopter maintenance training.”

“I know of no plans right now, as a result of what happened in Haiti, for us to reconsider or to change this very valuable, ethical leadership training that we continue to provide to — to partners in the Western hemisphere and to partners around the world,” Kirby said.

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The Rundown

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Calendar

FRIDAY | JULY 23

11 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual discussion: “How Congress Can help America Get More Out of Our Defense Dollars,” with Philip Candreva , senior lecturer of budgeting and public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School; Eric Lofgren , senior fellow at George Mason University's Center for Government Contracting; and Frederico Bartels , senior policy analyst for defense budgeting at Heritage. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event

12 p.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: “Transforming Defense for a Competitive Era.” with Rep. Seth Moulton , D-Mass.; Jay Dryer , director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Strategic Capabilities Office; former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy , co-founder and managing partner at WestExec Advisers; and Dan Patt , adjunct fellow at the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology. https://www.hudson.org/events/1991-virtual-event

3 p.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center Kissinger Institute on China and the United States virtual discussion: “The Selling of a Centennial, 2021: What the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Propaganda Reveals About the CCP,” Anne-Marie Brady , professor at the University of Canterbury; Aynne Kokas , associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia; Maria Repnikova , assistant professor of global communications at Georgia State University; and Robert Daly , director of the WWC Kissinger Institute. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/selling-centennial-2021

TUESDAY | JULY 27

8:30 a.m. — American Enterprise Institute web event; “Scoping the threat: Do African Salafi-jihadi groups threaten the West?” with Idriss Lallali , deputy director, African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism; Nathaniel Powell , associate researcher, Centre for War and Diplomacy, Lancaster University; Yan St-Pierre , CEO, Modern Security Consulting Group; Katherine Zimmerman , fellow, AEI; and moderator, Jason Warner , assistant professor, Department of Social Sciences, U.S.Military Academy at West Point. https://www.aei.org/events/scoping-the-threat

WEDNESDAY | JULY 28

10 a.m. — Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual Spacepower Forum, with Gen. David “DT” Thompson , vice chief of space operations. Video posted afterward at https://mitchellaerospacepower.org/event/space-power-forum

12 p.m. — Center for the National Interest virtual forum, “How Stable is North Korea?” with Bruce Bennett , adjunct international/defense researcher, RAND Corporation; Jessica Lee , senior research fellow in the East Asia Program, Quincy Institute; Frank Aum senior expert on Northeast Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace; Harry Kazianis , senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest. https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

3 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies “Smart Women, Smart Power” event: “U.S. National Security Policy in the Indo-Pacific: A Conversation with Sen . Tammy Duckworth .” https://www.csis.org/events/us-national-security-policy

THURSDAY | JULY 29

9 a.m. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Mr. John Sopko , special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR). https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/

10 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in-person event: “America’s ever-shrinking fighting force,” with Mackenzie Eaglen , senior fellow, AEI; Arnold Punaro , former staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee and CEO, Punaro Group; and former Sen. Jim Talent , senior fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center. https://www.aei.org/events/americas-ever-shrinking-fighting-force

TUESDAY | AUGUST 3

8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 1, with Michele Flournoy , former undersecretary of defense for policy; Zalmay Khalilzad , special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation; retired Gen. David Petraeus , former director, Central Intelligence Agency; Roya Rahmani , Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.; Rep. Liz Cheney , R-Wyo.; and more. See full agenda and register at https://www.aspensecurityforum.org/2021-virtual-asf

WEDNESDAY | AUGUST 4

8 a.m. — The virtual Aspen Security Forum, Day 2, with Anne Neuberger , deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies; Victoria Nuland , undersecretary of state for political affairs; Adm. John Aquilino , commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Stephen Biegun , former deputy secretary of state; Matt Pottinger , former deputy national security adviser; Sen. Dan Sullivan , R-Alaska; and more. See full agenda and register at https://www.aspensecurityforum.org/2021-virtual-asf


QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The world we face today is more dangerous than I’ve seen in my lifetime, and our military must be ready to meet any and all challenges we face. The NDAA largely moves us toward that goal — strengthening our national defense, standing up to Russia and China and, most importantly, supporting our service members and their families.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, on the bipartisan vote advancing the National Defense Authorization Act.

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