Every year since 1961, the Department of Defense has had a National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense policy and procurement for the coming fiscal year.
Some years, the congressional passage of the law is delayed until after the fiscal year has started on Oct. 1. However, this year’s version of the bill has languished in the Senate simply because of the majority party’s unwillingness to bring it up for consideration.
Now, more than 45 days into fiscal 2022, it appears this critically needed piece of legislation might finally see the light of day.
This year’s National Defense Authorization Act is bipartisan legislation that was approved by the House of Representatives in late September. On the other side of the Hill, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version in July, but since then, there has been only radio silence.
The Senate’s Democratic leadership has simply not prioritized finding floor time to debate and pass the defense authorization. Instead, it has reserved the floor time for many rounds of debate on the multiple proposals to vastly balloon the size of the federal government.
The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee—Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., respectively—working together in a rare case of bipartisanship crafted a defense authorization bill that improves the situation of our military.
Like any truly bipartisan bill, it’s not perfect, and it needs important changes, such as removing provisions designed to judge individuals by their race through critical race theory, the expansion of the antiquated Selective Service to include women, or the inclusion of parochial “pork barrel” additions like a fund for congressionally directed medical research within the Army that has little to do with medical research needed for soldiers.
There are also myriad policy provisions that should be adopted before the final version of the defense authorization bill is approved.
Among those would be the establishment of an independent commission that would investigate the deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. It would also be great to remove the misguided changes to the military code of justice that won’t help address the problem of sexual assault in the military.
It also would be good to not see the military and our allies be harmed by increased “Buy American” requirements that will hurt our allies and our national defense.
The bill does authorize additional critically needed resources that will lead to increased procurement of ships and planes. Within that increase are additional warships that will be necessary to augment the size of the Navy, a consistent need to meet the challenges from China in the Pacific.
Among the naval additions, the bill provides resources to increase the production capacity of nuclear-powered submarines. Further, there are increased numbers of helicopters that will fill needs both in the Army and the Navy.
All this comes at a time when the U.S. armed forces’ ability to meet its requirements is only marginal, as assessed by The Heritage Foundation’s 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength. That means that the country needs to continue to invest to keep America safe.
Once its shortcomings are addressed, the 2022 defense authorization act represents a step forward for our military, our service members, and allies, and a setback for our adversaries.
If Congress can get it over the finish line, it will show that lawmakers are engaged and pay close attention to our national defense and the values it takes to build a strong and ready military.
The crux of the question is whether there are still enough senators who are willing to focus the NDAA on providing for our national defense. Here’s hoping there are.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal