Biden Signs FY2022 Defense Policy Bill Into Law

Biden Signs FY2022 Defense Policy Bill Into Law

President Biden signed the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act into law today, the 61st year in a row the massive policy bill has made it over the finish line. The $740 billion in the bill for DOD is just a recommendation since this is an authorization bill, but defense appropriators often work closely with the authorizers. The U.S. Space Force would get a significant increase over last year and above the President’s request if the appropriators follow suit, although all the FY2022 appropriations are stuck in limbo right now so there are no guarantees.

The total amount recommended in the bill is $768.2 billion for national defense: $740 billion for DOD, $27.8 billion for the Department of Energy (which manages the nation’s nuclear stockpile), and $0.4 billion for defense-related activities. The amount for DOD is $25 billion above the request.

The House passed its version of the FY2022 NDAA in September (H.R. 4350), but what emerged from the Senate Armed Services Committee (S. 2792) got bogged down during floor debate and never did pass. Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees –Reps. Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — crafted their own compromise (S. 1605). It sailed through the House on December 7 and the Senate on December 15. The Senate made a technical correction to the bill, which meant it had to go back to the House again. The House agreed during a pro forma session on December 20 and the bill was sent to the President on December 23.

The U.S. Space Force just celebrated its second birthday last week, so this is only the second year that DOD space programs are clearly broken out instead of being subsumed in the Air Force budget. The Space Force and the Air Force both are part of the Department of the Air Force, but they are separate military services, just as the Navy and Marine Corps are separate services within the Department of the Navy.

The final bill has a long list of space policy provisions, but perhaps what is most interesting is what the bill does not include — permission to create a Space National Guard or a prohibition on using funds to build a new headquarters for U.S. Space Command before investigations are completed as to why President Trump decided it should be built in Huntsville, AL. U.S. Space Command, which also turned two years old recently, is the newest of the 11 Unified Combatant Commands and temporarily headquartered in Colorado along with several Space Force units. Critics of Trump’s decision think it should stay there.

In terms of money, the FY2022 request for the Space Force was a $2 billion increase over FY2021, but the defense authorizers went even further. The budget tables in the final NDAA show a total increase of $714.3 million above the request across the three spending categories: procurement; research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E); and operations and maintenance (O&M).

Among the biggest plus-ups in RDT&E are:

  • $61 million to accelerate cislunar flight experiment
  • $28 million to expand Blackjack radio frequency payloads
  • $50 million to maintain competition for Phase 3 of the National Security Space Launch Program (Space)-EMD for DOD unique requirements
  • $50 million for tactically responsive launch
  • $205.2 million for a classified program

It’s important to bear in mind that none of these increases will happen if Congress cannot pass the FY2022 appropriations bills and DOD is held to its FY2021 levels in a full-year Continuing Resolution (CR). The current CR expires in eight weeks on February 18, 2022. Democrats complain that Republicans will not even come to the negotiating table. Politico reports some Republicans appear willing to forego an increase in defense spending in order to hold Democrats to non-defense spending limits adopted in the Trump Administration. Appropriations bills require 60 votes to pass in the Senate, so at least 10 Republicans would have to vote aye.

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