House committee advances $840B defense bill to boost troop pay, offset inflation
The House Armed Services Committee in the early morning hours of Thursday voted to advance its $840 billion version of the annual defense policy bill, adding in more for extra ships, aircraft, Ukraine aid and to offset inflation.
After a 16-hour markup session that stretched past 2 a.m., the committee approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 by a vote of 57-1.
During the marathon debate, the committee negotiated hundreds of amendments before sending the policy bill to the House floor.
After the full House takes up the legislation in July, it will join the Senate’s version of the bill, passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and head to the full Senate next month. After that, lawmakers from both chambers will work to negotiate a final, combined compromise.
Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), praised the bill’s passage as “a powerful, bipartisan message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people: democracy still works – and it can deliver real results.”
In a statement after the vote, Smith said the legislation “supports the largest service member pay raise in decades, expands the talent pipeline, and partners with research institutions to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies that will support those in uniform.”
Among the biggest amendments added was one proposed by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.), to increase the defense budget by $37 billion.
Though Smith opposed the amendment, it passed the committee by a vote of 42-17.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, has proposed a $45 billion increase, a difference that will be ironed out in conference later this year.
The House bill also offers a 4.6 percent pay raise for troops in 2023 — the largest in two decades if enacted.
The pay bump, which mirrors the Pentagon’s requested pay raise, would go into effect Jan. 1.
In addition, the bill would pay for eight new battle ships, including two Virginia-class submarines and three guided-missile destroyers.
Several other highly watched programs received full funding, such as the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the B-21A bomber.
As for vehicles and tanks, the bill pays for 44 Abrams tank upgrades, 102 Stryker Vehicle upgrades, and another 61 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
The legislation also includes funding for ships, vehicles and missile launchers the Pentagon didn’t initially ask for in its version of the bill, including $3.6 billion for another destroyer, a frigate and two medical ships, among other vessels.
An extra $2 billion would be spent on eight additional F/A-18 fighter jets and other Navy aircraft, and $1.2 billion for four additional Patriot surface-to-air missile systems and 20 additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors.
The legislation also funds $550 million for additional Ukraine lethal aid and for “advance planning to support U.S. presence on the Eastern front.”
And to offset the rising inflation in the past several months, the bill includes $3.5 billion for extra costs associated with military construction, $2.5 billion for fuel and $1.4 billion for an additional inflation.
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