The House Armed Services Committee is largely sticking with the Biden vision for the Defense Department next year, however, the 2023 Defense authorization bill still has a long way to go before it makes its way to the president’s desk.
The committee will markup the bill on Wednesday in its usual marathon fashion, bringing the full panel together for hours of debate and dozens of amendments.
Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Monday that he has faith in the bipartisan nature of the bill, which has eventually make it into law every year for the last six decades.
“This year’s NDAA brings together ideas from across the Armed Services Committee to strengthen U.S. national security by investing in the rich diversity of people who work to defend our country: service members and their families, civil servants across the Department of Defense, scientists and researchers, and the workers who power our defense industrial base,” Smith said. “I am particularly proud that this year’s mark supports the highest pay raise for service members in decades, improves oversight for military family housing projects, and requires a report on a more fair and transparent way for the department to calculate the basic allowance for housing.”
Federal News Network put together a list of interesting provisions in this year’s bill and ones that are likely to draw the most debate this week.
Military end strength
The Defense Department wants to temporarily decrease its end strength, only by a marginal amount, for now the committee is going along with the plan.
However, even with the small drop in service members, lawmakers concerned about pacing with China and Russia are likely to object. Expect an amendment to show up that increases military end strength.
The Pentagon’s plan reduces the number of people in the military by about 4,600 people, that’s out of a total of 2.1 million.
The Pentagon says the goal is to make the military more capable, not bigger.
The Army is taking the biggest cut by shedding 3,000 soldiers. The service says it’s temporary considering the current job market and amount of resources the Army would need to put into recruitment for little gain.
“We want to make sure that we are maintaining our emphasis on high quality talent, and we are looking at making sure that we fill the needs of a cutting edge Army through things like our Multi-Domain Task Force, and we’re enabling them to use the equipment that we’re developing into the future,” Army Undersecretary Gabriel Camarillo said in March. “This is not a budget driven decision. It is entirely about quality, and we will look to build back up are entering over the future years defense plan.”
Red Hill Facility
The Pentagon decided to close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Facility in Hawaii after a spill sickened people in the area.
The committee is putting multiple provisions in its version of the 2023 Defense authorization bill dealing with the facility. The bill requires the Navy secretary to defuel the facility by the end of 2023. The Defense secretary must also certify to the committee that the defueling will not impact the ability of DoD to provide fuel for operations in the Indo-Pacific region.
The committee is also hedging its bets, even though it’s requiring the facility to defuel, it is not positive about totally closing it. The bill bars any funds from being used to close Red Hill until one year after the Defense Secretary shows that operations will not be affected by its closure. The committee also wants a study for alternate uses for Red Hill.
Finally, the committee is focusing on the people sickened by the facility. The bill requires a study on the future water needs on the island of Oahu, including new wells, privatization of DoD utilities and construction of water treatment plants.
Women in the draft
This idea isn’t in the committee’s bill, but it’s likely to come up. In the past, amendments requiring women to sign up for Selective Service have passed in the House NDAA markup. Those provisions didn’t make it into the final bill, but this could be the year.
There will still be plenty of fireworks over the issue, however. The Senate’s version of the 2023 NDAA requires women to sign up for the draft.
Multiple Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have already come out against the provision.
“Women have served in and alongside the Armed Forces since our nation’s founding. Time and again, they have answered the call of duty and served honorably — often heroically — when our nation needed them,” a handful of senators wrote to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) last week. “But they have done so of their own will. While American men are required to register for the military draft and fight if needed, these requirements have never been applied to American women. Where they have fought, they have done so freely.”
A commission looking at public service found in 2020 that women should be eligible for the draft.
“Ultimately, the commission determined the time is right to require women to register with Selective Service,” the authors wrote. “This policy change represents a necessary — and overdue — step that is in the best interests of the United States. Requiring all Americans to register with the Selective Service System is needed to ensure that during a national emergency, the government would be able to call on the talents of all Americans and demonstrate the resolve of a united country.”