House Passes FY22 National Defense Authorization Act

By Chauncey Goss   •
An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a payload to the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson. Credit: U.S. Navy, MC1 Devin Langer

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on September 2 by a 57-2 margin. On September 23, the measure passed the full House by a margin of 316-113. The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the NDAA in July, but it has not been scheduled for Senate floor action. 

Historically the NDAA topline for the Department of Defense (DoD) is consistent with the topline set by the Appropriations Committee in its 302(b) spending allocation. This year, as shown in Chart I, the House appropriators closely matched the President’s request of approximately $715 billion. Many on the Armed Services Committee believe that number is too low to adequately compete with Russia and China. HASC Chairman Smith (D-WA) set his mark for the Committee at the requested level, but an amendment offered by Ranking Member Rogers (R-AL) was adopted, raising the topline by $25 billion. The amendment passed 42-17 with the support of 14 Democrats. As we reported in July, the Senate also raised the NDAA topline by $25 billion above the request.

During floor debate of the bill, two amendments from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party attempted to reduce the defense topline. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Pocan (D-WA) attempted to reduce DoD spending by 10% and were voted down 86-332. An amendment by Rep. Jacobs (D-CA) and Rep. Lee (D-CA) that returned the topline to the Biden request was defeated 142-286. These results support FBIQ’s forecast that Biden’s budget sets the FY22 floor on DoD spending.

The bipartisan adoption of my amendment sends a clear signal: the President’s budget submission was wholly inadequate to keep pace with a rising China and a re-emerging Russia. I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration. The defense of our nation will not be shortchanged by the Congress.

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Rogers (R-AL), September 1

As Chart II indicates, the funding the Rogers amendment adds to the topline primarily targets DoD’s investment accounts. The higher amounts borrow heavily from the unfunded priorities request of the Combatant Commanders. As we have noted before, the National Defense Strategy calls for 3-5% real growth above inflation, which also serves as the justification for an increase that provides 3% real growth.

While the funding shift away from Operation and Maintenance towards investment accounts is not unexpected and is consistent with past congressional action, the Armed Services Committees will not have the final word for DoD funding levels. That distinction falls to the appropriators as they will ultimately decide the topline and the spending levels within accounts. The Armed Services Committees are charged with setting defense policy. Some of the personnel policy considerations considered in this bill include:

  • provides the authority for a pay raise for military and civilian personnel of 2.7% which is consistent with the President’s request
  • requires women to register for the military draft
  • provides a ceiling for active-duty military personnel at the requested level (1,346,400) which is 8,409 fewer than the authorized level in FY21
  • establishes a space National Guard

The bill also reflects the Congress’ interest in ensuring the Department of Defense modernizes technological capabilities in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cyberspace, space, and hypersonics. The HASC provides direction to the Department in many of these areas; we have highlighted some as follows.

The Committee encourages DoD to incorporate AI and machine learning into its contracting processes to increase efficiency and produce cost savings. The HASC directs the Secretary of Defense to 1) identify any AI and machine learning applications currently used to assist contracting processes, 2) assess the feasibility, costs, and benefits of more broadly employing AI to further streamline contracting processes, and 3) identify ongoing research into AI related to contracting practices. The HASC also directs the Secretary to brief the Committee prior to March 31, 2022 on:

  • how the Department plans to integrate AI-enabled autonomous systems into its future operational concepts 
  • how AI will be integrated into the defense acquisition programs 
  • the potential use of AI-enabled systems to ensure connectivity and interoperability between existing and future systems with an emphasis on the Joint All Domain Command and Control concept
  • the Department’s efforts to leverage universities and non-traditional companies to advance these objectives

In addition to AI and machine learning as it relates to acquisition, the HASC is also concerned with microelectronic supply chain vulnerabilities. The Committee directs the Department to report on risks and develop a strategy to address those risks especially as they result to microelectronics in current and next-generation ground vehicles.

Title XV (Cyberpace-Related Matters) provides a myriad of directions for “items of special interest” such as:

  • asking for a report on the progress of the Joint AI Center’s data efforts 
  • directing the CIO to provide a report on efforts to build cohesive data standards
  • directing the CIO to provide a briefing on the efforts of the DoD to increase and ensure compliance at the component level of network endpoint monitoring with plans to update network patching standards to reflect current industry approaches and practices
  • directing the CIO to brief the HASC on the evolution of the Department’s secure communications infrastructure with an emphasis on the European Command and the Indo-Pacific Command
  • directing the Secretary to submit a Strategy and Posture Review for Information Operations (IO) that helps define IO consistently across the components
  • encouraging the continuation of the adoption of a zero trust security model

The bill provides further direction to the Department in the following legislative provisions:

  • Sec. 1501 — Cyber Threat Information Collaboration Environment: directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, to develop an information collaboration environment that enables entities to identify, mitigate, and prevent malicious cyber activities.
  • Sec. 1502 — Enterprise-Wide Procurement of Commercial Cyber Threat Information Products: directs the Joint Forces HQ-DoD Information Networks to establish a program management office to procure and manage DoD enterprise-wide licensing and use of commercial threat information products.
  • Sec. 1511 — Legacy Information Technologies and Systems Accountability: mandates that each military service account for its legacy information technology systems, applications, and software.
  • Sec. 1521 — Notification Requirements regarding Cyber Weapons: establishes a funding limitation on the Office of the Secretary of Defense until the defense committees are presented with a report establishing a definition for “cyber capability” as included in the Cyberspace Activities Budget.

Prior to consideration on the House floor, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) that took issue with several areas in the bill. Primarily, the SAP opposes direction to the DoD to add funding for platforms and systems that cannot be modernized to excel in the modern threat environment. This statement takes direct aim at the retirement of the Ticonderoga Class Cruiser, the KC-10, and tactical airlift. The SAP also expresses the administration’s opposition to the creation of a Space National Guard by arguing it creates an administrative burden without creating new capabilities.

Once the Senate passes its version of the bill, the policy differences between the two bills will be negotiated. The final NDAA topline will be influenced by expected bipartisan budget negotiations on total defense and nondefense spending. We expect to see final NDAA passage prior to the end of the calendar year.

For 61 consecutive years, the House has proven that our collective commitment to U.S. national security can help us rise above partisanship. Instead of focusing on what divides us, each year we choose to pass a defense bill that fulfills Congress’ constitutional obligation to ‘provide for the common defense.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Smith (D-WA), September 23