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20 Jul 23. DOD Official Highlights Importance of Pacific Island Nations.
The islands nations of the Pacific play a critical role in the U.S. strategic vision for the Indo-Pacific region, said Siddharth Mohandas, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.
Mohandas testified before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the national security implications of the Compacts of Free Association with the Republic of Palau, the Federal States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Speaking alongside witnesses from the State and Interior departments, he told the committee that the compacts are proof to the nations that the U.S. commitment to them is “ironclad.”
Congress is working to renew the compacts the United States has with these Pacific nations. The compacts are up for renewal this year.
“The compact renewal comes at a time of unprecedented U.S. commitment to the Pacific Islands,” Mohandas said. He noted that last year the Biden administration released the first Pacific Partnership Strategy, which prioritized broader and deeper engagement with the Pacific Islands. It also stated that the successful conclusion of the compact negotiations is a key objective.
The compacts define the relationship between the United States and the island nations. On defense, the compact allows the U.S. to operate in, and be responsible for protecting, the nations of the vast Pacific region. Of note, citizens of the compact nations, or Freely Associated States, serve in the U.S. armed forces. In fact, the Federated States of Micronesia has a higher enlistment rate per capita than any U.S. state.
China is seeking to supplant the United States in the region and is eyeing the compact states. China’s leaders seek to overturn the rules-based international order that has maintained peace in the region since World War II.
“The most comprehensive challenge we face … is coercive and increasingly aggressive effort to change the status quo of the Indo-Pacific region and the international system to align with its interests,” Mohandas said. ” seeks to challenge U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific and leverage its growing capabilities — including its economic influence — to coerce its neighbors and threaten their interests.”
The United States is pushing forward with the Pacific Partnership Strategy in conjunction with regional allies. “We have made great progress toward renewing the compact agreements, and we’ve appreciated recent opportunities to engage with both Congressional members and staff on the importance of the renewal,” Mohandas said. “The defense rights guaranteed by the compact agreements provide security not only for the compact states, but for the broader Pacific Islands region and for the U.S. homeland, as well.”
Having the compacts in place is vital to DOD’s ability to deter aggression and, if necessary, prevail in conflict, ensuring peace, security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, he said.
The compacts demonstrate the United States’ long-term commitment to Pacific Island partners. They also provide value across priority areas like assured access for bilateral and multilateral training, exercises and force posture.
“The assured access guaranteed by the compact agreements protects the strategic approaches of the United States and allows us to operate freely in critical terrain in the Pacific,” he said.
There are important bases in the region thanks to the compacts, including the U.S. Army’s missile defense testing site at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. “We have also engaged in construction of the tactical multimission, over-the-horizon radar in Palau and the Department of Defense is working towards designating further key defense posture sites in Palau as well as in the Federated States of Micronesia to facilitate agile combat employment for the U.S. Air Force,” Mohandas said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
20 Jul 23. U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy Showing Results, Ratner Tells Congress. The Defense Department is clear-eyed about the challenge to the international rules-based order from the People’s Republic of China, Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs told the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party today.
Ratner testified before the committee alongside his counterparts from the State and Commerce departments. The Defense Department has called China the “pacing challenge” to the United States for years and that challenge is now getting the attention and resources it deserves, Ratner said. “China is the only country in the world with the will … and increasingly the capability to refashion the international order in ways they would deeply undermine vital U.S. interests,” he told the committee.
DOD has put in place strategies, doctrines, policies and resources to counter China and, “these efforts are starting to deliver in meaningful ways,” Ratner said.
Chinese leaders have stated often that they seek to match and surpass the United States in the coming years. “No doubt this challenge is serious, but so too has been our response,” Ratner said. “In fact, over the past two years, the administration and Congress have worked together to ensure that we have a U.S. military that is more capable, more distributed across the region and more deeply integrated with our allies and partners.”
Chinese Communist Party officials plan for the long run, and U.S. strategic thinking is is working to stay a step ahead. “The department is investing in critical capabilities to maintain deterrence and prevail as necessary in this decade and beyond,” Ratner said. “The U.S. military is the most capable and credible fighting force in the world, and for decades that basic fact has formed the heart of deterrence throughout the Indo-Pacific.”
Maintaining deterrence requires investment today and consistent investment for the future. “These investments strengthen our warfighting advantages, exploit adversary vulnerabilities and address critical operational challenges in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “They provide capabilities that will serve to strengthen our combat credible deterrent by ensuring we can prevail.”
DOD is also investing in research and development to develop and deploy breakthrough technologies to deter conflict in the decades ahead. These include hypersonics, artificial intelligence, stealth technology, new ways of moving, shooting and communicating and more.
DOD is also moving toward a regional force posture that is more mobile, distributed, resilient and lethal. “In the past year alone, we have announced new force posture initiatives with some of our closest allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” the assistant secretary said.
In Australia, the United States is increasing rotations of bombers and fighters through Australian bases. “With Japan, we have agreed to station the Marine Corps most advanced formation forward for the first time ever in 2025,” he said. “With the Philippines, U.S. forces will have access to four new strategic locations across the country as part of our Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.”
The United States is reaching out to new partners, and Ratner cited the defense cooperation agreement with Papua-New Guinea, where Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will visit next week. Austin will discuss the agreement that will increase regional stability by deepening bilateral security cooperation, Ratner said.
The trip to Papua-New Guinea highlights another leg of the U.S. strategy in the region: the outreach to allies, partners and friends. “We are leveraging one of our greatest strategic advantages, by deepening our alliances and partnerships … that in almost every instance are stronger than they have ever been,” Ratner said. “The department is supporting our Indo-Pacific allies and partners as they invest in themselves, in their own strength, in their relationships with each other and in their relationships with the United States.”
This outreach manifests itself in different ways with different countries. The United States supports Japan’s efforts to acquire new counter strike capabilities. DOD has launched a major new technology initiative with India. The department is also working with countries across Southeast Asia to acquire asymmetric capabilities to counter Beijing’s coercive activities.
“Consistent with long-standing U.S. policy, we are also supporting Taiwan self-defense in the face of the threats of aggression and ongoing pressure campaign,” he said.
All this symbolizes progress, but much more must be done. “It is critical that we continue moving forward with urgency, and with resolve,” Ratner said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
19 Jul 23. With eyes on Trump, Senate votes to make NATO withdrawal harder. The Senate on Wednesday passed a provision to the annual defense bill that would make it more difficult for a U.S. president to withdraw from NATO, a precautionary measure against former President Donald Trump’s potential return to the White House.
The bipartisan amendment to the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act would not allow the president to withdraw from NATO without congressional approval, requiring two-thirds of senators to vote for withdrawal. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., introduced the amendment alongside Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, which senators adopted in a 65-28 vote.
Trump said on Fox News this week he told NATO leaders when he was president that “I will not protect you from Russia” if they were “delinquent“ on NATO contributions.
He also said at a 2018 rally he had told U.S. allies he would withdraw from NATO if all countries do not spend 2% of their GDP on defense. The alliance has agreed on the 2% goal, but many member states have yet to meet it. Polls show Trump is the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican primary.
“The last administration, a question came up about whether a president could withdraw from NATO unilaterally,” Kaine said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “Our allies — who worry about different presidents — should the policy change depending upon every four years who is president, they would take this statement of congressional support in a very, very powerful way.”
If the president tries to withdraw from NATO without Senate approval, the Kaine and Rubio amendment would limit funding for withdrawal until a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate vote to approve the decision. The legislation also authorizes Congress to establish its own legal counsel to represent the legislature before federal courts in any dispute with the White House over NATO withdrawal.
Eighteen Republicans joined Senate Democrats in voting for the amendment, including Sens. Rubio, Susan Collins of Maine, Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Mitt Romney of Utah.
The legislation is expected to pass the Senate next week, but the NATO amendment will need to survive negotiations over a final defense bill with the Republican-held House.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, opposed the amendment, calling it “absolutely unnecessary” and arguing Trump is “fully committed to” NATO’s Article 5 collective defense clause.
“I cannot think of any currently serving elected official of significance who’s calling for suspending or withdrawing from NATO,” Wicker said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “If I didn’t know better, I would think that this amendment might be aimed as a slap at former President Trump.”
Wicker noted Armed Services Committee included a provision in the base bill requiring the defense secretary to prioritize NATO members who already meet or exceed the 2% spending requirement.
Following that vote, the Senate rejected 16-83 a separate amendment from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that stipulated Congress would still need to authorize military force for the president to come to the defense of NATO allies, even if an attack on another ally triggered Article 5.
Additionally, the Senate voted down 39-60 an amendment from Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Ky., and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, that would have required the Pentagon to change the way it calculates the cost of weapons sent to other countries under presidential drawdown authority — the mechanism President Joe Biden has used to arm Ukraine from U.S. stockpiles.
Hawley and Vance introduced their amendment after the Pentagon announced last month an accounting error overestimated the cost of weapons it has sent to Ukraine. The error means the Biden administration had more cash on hand than it previously thought to send Ukraine weapons under the authority.
The Hawley-Vance amendment would have required the Pentagon to determine the acquisition and modification costs of weapons sent under presidential authority in addition to the cost of replacing those items. It would have then required the Pentagon to use whichever value is greater to determine the drawdown cost.
“The accurate cost of equipment that we send to Ukraine is how much it costs to replace it for the American taxpayer; it’s not what it originally cost minus some measure of depreciation,” Vance told Defense News ahead of the vote. “It’s important to have an accurate accounting of what we’re spending because how do we compare ourselves against Europe and how we’re carrying the relative burden within NATO?” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
19 Jul 23. Pacom Commander Says U.S. Must Continue Modernization of Strategic Capabilities. The U.S. must continue to meet the pacing challenge presented by the Chinese government’s buildup of its military capabilities, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said yesterday.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino said he is concerned about of the buildup of China’s army, including its nuclear capabilities, but also that he knows the U.S. remains focused on protecting the homeland and U.S. forces. “It’s critical that the U.S. continues our modernization of our strategic capabilities,” he said. “It is the bottom-line defense of this nation through strategic nuclear deterrence. That said, the Chinese are going very quickly … what matters is that we modernize our force and we’re ready to be able to respond if need be.”
In the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, Aquilino said the U.S. is also working to strengthen security in the region by building relationships there with partners and between partners, including with South Korea and Japan.
For instance, the USS Kentucky, a ballistic missile submarine, just yesterday made a port call in Busan, South Korea. It’s the first time a submarine of its type has visited South Korean since the 1980s.
“We have a mutual defense treaty alliance with both Japan and Korea and that means the entire … United States Armed forces is ready to support alliances,” Aquilino said. “Demonstrating our willingness and our capabilities to our allies is reassuring.”
Last week, the general said, the U.S. also flew a B-52 bomber over the Korean peninsula. That flight was accompanied by South Korean and U.S. fighter aircraft as escorts. Before the bomber’s arrival in Korea, he said, it had also been escorted by Japanese aircraft as well.
“We assure our allies and partners often,” he said. “This is just one of those demonstrations.”
Last week, he said, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley visited Hawaii for a trilateral meeting with Japanese and South Korean partners.
“The uniformed members of Japan, Korea and the United States are working together more frequently and more easily,” the admiral said. “That trilateral relationship is important. It doesn’t come without some long historical issues between … But the leadership in Japan and Korea right now — very, very impressive for what they’re doing to defend their nations.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
19 Jul 23. US Lawmakers Focus on Containing China’s Missile Expansion. U.S. lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would require the secretary of defense to develop a strategy for building “Rings of Fire” in the Indo-Pacific region to shrink the missile gap with China in concert with allies.
Republican Representatives Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa introduced the Rings of Fire Act of 2023 on Friday.
“China’s aggression is growing, and a strong deterrence strategy is needed to confront the Chinese Communist Party. As China’s rocket force has taken the lead in the Indo-Pacific, the shocking gap in America’s missile capabilities calls deterrence into question,” Ernst said.
“The Chinese Communist Party has spent years building a rocket force that can push American ships out of a fight and target American forces further out across the Indo-Pacific — reaching our own borders,” Gallagher said in a press release.
The bill includes a list of potential locations to place missile systems in the region, the designation of a specific commander tasked with overseeing the effort, and a list of allies with which Washington could develop a strategy, according to Gallagher’s office.
Geologically, the “ring of fire” refers to a 40,000-kilometer-long zone marked by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions extending in a horseshoe shape around the Pacific Ocean.
A report titled “Rings of Fire: A Conventional Missile Strategy for a Post-INF Treaty World,” released last August by the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says the most appropriate set of rings corresponds to the ranges of the existing classes of conventional missiles: short-, medium- and intermediate-range.
One of the report’s authors, Tyler Hacker, told VOA Mandarin via email on July 13 that a “rings of fire” strategy would optimally match different ground-based missile systems with potential operating locations, as it can “take advantage of the plethora of existing allied missile capabilities in the first island chain (inner ring) and maximize the utility of strategic geography in the middle and outer rings.”
The bill’s sponsors wrote in an op-ed for Fox News that “Japan and the Philippines could host shorter-range systems, while longer-range systems could be deployed to northern Australia, the Pacific Islands and Alaska.”
The op-ed also mentioned that according to a Pentagon report, China has deployed more than 1,250 ground-launched theater-range ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km that can strike U.S. targets in the Indo-Pacific region.
When asked during a hearing before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on April 20 whether the U.S. deployed land-based theater missiles with the same range, Admiral John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said it did not. Asked if the U.S. is developing the missiles with a range at 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers, Aquilino responded it was not.
The commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Anthony Cotton, who oversees nuclear forces, told both House and Senate Armed Services committees on January 26 via letter that China has more land-based fixed and mobile Intercontinental ballistic missile launchers than the U.S.
Bryan Clark, director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, told VOA Mandarin via email on July 12 that the U.S. and allied forces will have far too few air defense missiles to counter China’s growing inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles.
According to research compiled by the Federation of American Scientists, China has had more than 450 launchers as of October 2022, while the U.S. Air Force has 400 silos with missiles and another 50 empty silos that could be loaded if necessary.
“As we see in Ukraine, missile defenses can be effective but are depleted quickly in even a relatively small conflict,” Clark said. “U.S. forces will have to withdraw to longer ranges from China to reduce the number of Chinese missiles they face and use long-range anti-ship missiles of their own to attack Chinese forces invading Taiwan. These longer-range U.S. anti-ship missiles are expensive and in limited supply. They are, therefore, likely to run out before even the initial fighting has subsided.”
Clark suggests a better approach “has been to prioritize shorter-range cruise missiles that can be carried by submarines or aircraft flying from U.S. carriers or land bases to attack Chinese ships and targets ashore. By using stealth aircraft or ships, these missiles can be launched closer to Chinese territory and, therefore, be smaller and less expensive. They can, therefore, be more numerous.”
Kyle Bass, the founder and chief investment officer of Hayman Capital Management, is on the China Center Advisory Board at the Hudson Institute. At a July 12 event there, “China Prepares for War: A Timeline,” he told VOA Mandarin he thinks the U.S. has the best submarine fleet in the world and doesn’t need to encircle China with conventional missiles.
“I don’t think encircling China with our missiles is necessarily even a good idea on the land base. But I do think that we have all the firepower we need at the moment. And I don’t think the basic missile counts matter,” Bass said.
He said the U.S. should cripple China economically by disconnecting it from SWIFT, the international financial transaction settlement system. That, he suggested, would quickly bring China’s economy to a halt.
He said the U.S. should get “Treasury and OFAC [the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control] to socialize the concept of pressing this economic nuclear button. But if we really want to be effective, we press that button.”
Clark believes the reliance of the “Rings of Fire” on expensive ballistic missiles and host nation basing makes it ill-suited as a primary strategy for countering China, as “U.S. allies may not want to host them, where they would be a clear provocation to China.”
He suggested the U.S. strategy should prioritize the use of expendable uncrewed air and surface vehicles. For example, he said, U.S. forces could field uncrewed surface vessels to Taiwan and the Southwest Islands of Japan, where they could be quickly employed as suicide boats or launch loitering munitions and small missiles against Chinese ships.
“This approach has worked for Ukraine against the Russian Navy in the Black Sea,” he said, “and in the constrained waters around Taiwan, it could be an effective counter to a Chinese invasion force.”
(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Voice of America News)
18 Jul 23. Defense Innovation Board pushes ‘Oasis’ fund for promising technology. The Defense Innovation Board wants the Pentagon to create an “Oasis” of funding to help technology projects transition from development to production. In a July 17 report examining the U.S. Defense Department’s engagement with commercial companies and startups, the panel of former defense officials and industry experts recommend the Pentagon establishes a funding mechanism to help firms push technology from smaller investment projects into formal programs.
“Such a mechanism would be a much-needed ‘Oasis’ in the Valley of Death, addressing the misalignment of annual [research and development] vs. two-year procurement budgeting and insufficient productization funding,” the report said.
Defense officials refer to the drawn out and often terminal phase between when a technology effort begins and when it’s adopted by a military service as the valley of death. Small, non-traditional companies find themselves stuck in this in-between phase when, despite attracting low-dollar funding to mature their capability, that support is not sustained through production.
The Defense Department’s budget cycle — which requires planners to lay out new programs two-to-three years before receiving funding — exacerbates the issue, the report notes. Even companies who manage to bridge the valley can find themselves with a financial stall as they wait for a program to get funding.
“Without budgetary relief, the middle of the valley will remain a graveyard for dual-use innovation,” the report states.
Funding for the Oasis could come from a separate annual appropriation, a tax on the military services’ programs or, as the board recommends, a change in budget law that would allow DoD to allocate its annual surplus toward the technology transition account. The department is required to carry over a certain level of contingency funding each year.
For oversight purposes, the board recommends that organizations like the Defense Innovation Unit and the services’ innovation hubs who work directly with commercial companies report those investments to Congress annually to give insight into which startups are eligible for bridge funding.
Beyond creating a fund to support technology transition in the “middle of the valley,” the panel also recommends DoD make changes in the way it invests in and buys technology from commercial companies.
On the investment side, the report calls for each service to identify an investment arm that has direct control of small business innovative research and small business technology transfer funding — two mechanisms for contracting with startups.
It also recommends the department better empower its Defense Innovation Unit and Office of Strategic Capital — both tasked with helping DoD better leverage technology from commercial companies and startups — to invest in tech scouting, supply chain and international markets.
“As our interviews with companies and investors made clear, we must create better mechanisms for ongoing dialog between public and private officials in the dual-use investment community if we are to achieve military-civilian fusion,” the board said. “Better communication will create better companies, capabilities and markets for the competition.”
On the procurement side, the report proposes reducing high-level oversight and increasing investment in market research — an area the board says is under-resourced and shallow. It also calls for investments in open, modular IT systems and incentives for acquisition officials to incorporate commercial technology.
“All process changes will be foiled if the people executing them are not rewarded for desired outcomes,” the board said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
18 Jul 23. DOD Renews PEO Summit to Improve Acquisition Collaboration.
Program Executive Offices from across the military departments and other DOD acquisition entities — including the Defense Innovation Unit, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Health Agency — recently came together with OSD and Service acquisition leaders to discuss common challenges and solutions in delivering capability at speed and scale.
“The 2022 National Defense Strategy is a call to action for the acquisition community,” said William LaPlante, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. “As we leverage the full range of authorities and tools Congress has given us in recent years, it’s critical that we’re sharing best practices and implementing lessons learned from broad, service-agnostic challenges.”
The PEO Summit, facilitated by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and DAU, was held at DAU’s Fort Belvoir campus. The summit provided attendees the opportunity to network and “share perspectives on a daunting list of important and evolving problems,” DAU President Jim Woolsey said.
Four panel discussions aligned with the National Defense Strategy shaped the day:
- Using Middle Tier Acquisitions (MTAs) and transitioning to production
- Implementing lessons learned from DOD’s support to Ukraine
- Applying flexible contracting authorities
- Delivering software at speed and scale
MTAs have provided a mechanism for the acquisition community to rapidly prototype or field capabilities within five years. In emphasizing the importance of getting to capability production at a scale that is meaningful on the battlefield, discussion highlighted several programs, such as the Army’s M10 Booker Combat Vehicle and Space Development Agency’s low earth orbit satellites, that have leveraged MTAs to accelerate acquisition timelines. In continuing to build on progress made since MTA authority was granted to DOD in the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, PEOs focused on best practices for incorporating sustainment, test, and evaluation earlier within accelerated timelines.
From the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the acquisition community is observing the first high-volume fight in years — something that requires DOD to organize for speed and scale while shifting from business as usual. The Senior Integration Group — Ukraine was lauded as a model for teamwork and rapid decision-making for contracting, requirements development and funding alignment.
PEOs also discussed working with industry at all levels of the supply chain, as well as with allies and partners, to alleviate production bottlenecks and increase flexibility and resilience for future surge requirements. Several attendees noted that mobilization for World War II actually began years before U.S. entry into the war, with efforts like the Lend Lease Act positioning industry to more easily shift into wartime production. In addition to examining the impacts of acquisition lead times, the discussion focused on sustainment — both projecting support capabilities to theater and increasing opportunities for collaboration with allies and partners.
Service Procurement Executives likewise discussed the application of different contracting authorities, including how to inform and bring contracting into discussions earlier in the acquisition life cycle. While the range of available contracting authorities provide PEOs with flexibility to meet a program’s unique needs and requirements, the panelists highlighted that one of the most important practices is determining the right contracting tool for the job. Examples from both the interagency response to COVID-19 and U.S. security assistance to Ukraine illustrated successful approaches for executing contracting actions more rapidly—often in only days or a few weeks.
Software delivery was the center of discussion during the event’s final panel. PEOs shared their experiences incorporating agile design and updating existing waterfall-style software acquisitions. DOD’s focus is shifting to a more iterative process designed to get capabilities into the hands of warfighters as quickly as possible. Topics addressed included the use of digital twins and how to quantify earned value from software acquisitions. There was a general agreement that DOD, collectively, needs to focus on upskilling the workforce with digital literacy on concepts beyond Agile, such as gaining a better understanding of cloud computing, networks and cybersecurity-related topics.
“What you all do as PEOs will be important for the next 50 years,” LaPlante told attendees. “Today’s wars and future wars are won and lost in program offices, and the teams you lead are vital to pacing the threat.”
This was the first DOD-wide PEO Summit in several years, and LaPlante expressed that it will be a recurring event moving forward to maintain open dialogue, facilitate development of cross-service relationships, and ultimately improve acquisition outcomes. (Source: U.S. DoD)
17 Jul 23. US Senate Begins Debate on Annual Massive Defense Spending Bill. The U.S. Senate will begin debate Tuesday on a massive spending bill setting the spending priorities for the U.S. military for the coming year. Last Friday, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the $874.2bn National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 219-210.
The conservative priorities in the bill backed by the House Freedom Caucus mean it has no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. The Senate version of the NDAA passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee by a 25-1 vote earlier this month. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he looked forward to a bipartisan debate.
“So we can keep our country safe, support our friends in Ukraine, outcompete China, and give our troops the pay raise they rightfully deserve,” Schumer said earlier this month.
Senate Republicans are expected to call for an increase in funding levels from the Biden’s administration’s budget request.
“Our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee will be called upon to carefully consider the requirements identified by our commanders that have gone unfunded in President [Joe] Biden’s budget. They should think about the steps that could improve our ability to project power into the Asia-Pacific, or the assistance that could support vulnerable partners in the region,” Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month. “Remember, threats of sanctions and stern diplomatic warnings didn’t deter [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Words alone will not deter Chinese aggression in Asia.
“The Biden administration can continue to speak softly. But Congress must ensure that America carries a big stick,” he added.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hailed the funding in the House-passed version Friday, saying “cutting-edge technology that is essential for the future of this country and to keep freedom around the world in the rise of China and Russia will receive more investment than we’ve watched in the past.”
But every year the House and Senate must reconcile their own versions of the NDAA to pass a final package that can be sent to the White House to be signed into law.
The Republican amendments in the House-passed version of the NDAA would undo a new Pentagon policy providing time off and financial reimbursements for service members needing to travel out of state for abortions as well as funding for military diversity initiatives and health coverage for gender-transition surgery.
“Obviously, a lot of these amendments will be probably stripped out and the Senate will have a little different version. But overall, you know, an increase in defense spending and our troops get a pay raise. It’s a very critical time right now. It’s a dangerous world,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told reporters.
Five House Republican-led attempts to end U.S. aid to Ukraine failed last week. Most Republicans voted with Democrats to pass $300m in funding for Ukraine. But conservatives did score several victories against the Biden administration.
“Taxpayer money is provided to the DOD [Department of Defense] and intended to provide for our national defense and our national security. It is not, not to promote and support the Biden administration’s radical, immoral, pro-abortion agenda,” Republican lawmaker Ronny Jackson told reporters Friday.
Republicans argue government health insurance should not cover abortions for service members and the Pentagon should not lead diversity initiatives that include outreach to transgender people. But Democrats said Republicans’ attempts to kill those amendments were another example of the party’s extremism.
“It is woefully irresponsible that extreme MAGA Republicans have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security and taken it over and weaponized it in order to jam their extreme right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people,” Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said Friday.
Senate Democrats have called for an end to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s block on military nominations in protest of a new Pentagon health policy providing support to members of the military who need to travel out of state to obtain an abortion.
(Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Voice of America News;)
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