After months of negotiations, lawmakers on Tuesday evening released the text of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which would support $857.9 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 2023. The House is expected to vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday, with the Senate following suit early next week.
The 2023 NDAA includes $816.7 billion for the Department of Defense, a roughly $45 billion increase from the amount requested by President Joe Biden earlier this year – an increase intended in large part “to address the effects of inflation” on the Pentagon budget. It would also provide $30.3 billion for national security programs at the Department of Energy. Together, those two items produce a topline figure of roughly $847 billion for the 2023 NDAA.
Additionally, lawmakers plan to provide $10.6 billion for defense-related projects that fall outside the jurisdiction of the NDAA, producing an overall topline for national defense of roughly $858 billion.
Here are some notable highlights from the 4,408-page defense authorization bill, dubbed the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023, drawn from the more easily digested 18-page executive summary:
* The defense budget will be 8% larger in 2023 than in 2022.
* Over the White House’s objections, the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel will be repealed 30 days after the bill is signed into law.
* Active-duty personnel will receive a 4.6% pay raise, which Military.com says is the largest pay hike in 20 years, even if it falls short of a roughly 7% inflation rate.
* Ukraine will receive $800 million in additional military assistance.
* Taiwan may receive up to $10 billion in military aid over 10 years, and the Pentagon is tasked with producing a report on China’s strategy for the use of force against the island nation. (DefenseOne reports that Taiwan was the most frequently cited foreign nation in the bill, with 438 mentions, far more than Russia (237 mentions) or Ukraine (159).)
* The Navy will receive $32 billion for new ships, including three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines.
* The Pentagon is authorized to purchase 36 more F-35 stealth jets, across three variants.
* The Air Force is authorized to start retiring the A-10 Warthog.
The bottom line: Congress looks ready to pass one of the largest defense authorization bills in U.S. history. It’s worth noting, though, that while the NDAA authorizes defense spending for a given year, Congress still needs to provide the funds through an appropriations bill – a process that is currently bogged down in Washington.