FY2023 Defense Authorizaton Bill Clears Congress

FY2023 Defense Authorizaton Bill Clears Congress

The Senate passed the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act tonight. Although it seemed in peril just a week ago, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees once again demonstrated their determination and influence to maintain a perfect record for getting the NDAA through Congress 62 years in a row. The Senate also passed and sent to the President a one-week extension to the Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through December 23.

The NDAA is an authorization bill that sets policy and recommends funding levels, but does not actually provide any money. That is the province of appropriators. However, in the case of defense spending, authorizers and appropriators are often on the same page at least on total funding if not all the details.

This bill authorizes $857.9 billion for national defense, $45 billion more than President Biden requested. Congress is still working on FY2023 appropriations, but expectations are it will be about the same level.

Only a small portion of that is for the U.S. Space Force, but it also got a boost above the request. The total for Procurement, RDT&E, and O&M is $24.85 billion. That’s $1.37 billion more than the $23.48 billion requested.

  • Procurement: $4.08 billion (about $447 million above the $3.63 billion request)
  • Research, Development, Test & Evaluation: $16.59 billion (about $770 million above the $15.82 billion request) including $4.97 billion for classified programs ($333 million above the request)
  • Operations & Maintenance: $4.18 billion (about $150 million above the $4.03 billion request)

The request included another $1 billion for personnel that is not broken out in the conference report.

In terms of policy, the conference report has a strong emphasis on protecting satellites and responsive space. It requires Space Force and Space Command to establish requirements for “defense and resilience” before any new satellite acquisition program reaches Milestone A approval and the Secretary of Defense to make publicly available a strategy for defending and protecting on-orbit satellites.

Space Force and Space Command are to develop a responsive space strategy coordinated with each of the military services, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others and brief Congress annually on the strategy and its implementation. The report also expresses the sense of Congress that the U.S. implement joint-allied space missions that demonstrate rapid launch, reconstitution and satellite augmentation.

Among the provisions proposed by either HASC or SASC that did not make it into the final bill are HASC’s Space National Guard and SASC’s Vice Chief of Space Operations.

The conferees also did not adopt a SASC provision requiring the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Space Operations to jointly develop strategic objectives to organize, train and equip the Space Force. Instead, however, they require the SecAF, in consultation with the CSO (rather than jointly with him), to submit a “comprehensive strategy” for the Space Force by June 30, 2023 with detailed directions on what must be included.

They did not include the provisions made by HASC and SASC on the National Security Space Launch program, but replaced them with extensive language on how the phase two and phase three acquisitions should be carried out. The language on phase three consumes almost two pages.

The bill struggled to get through this year. The House version, H.R. 7900 (H. Rept. 117-397) passed on July 14, but the Senate version, S. 4543 (S. Rept. 117-130) was only briefly discussed on the Senate floor on October 11.

Instead, the bipartisan leadership of the two committees developed a compromise version and then used a different bill, H.R. 7776, the Water Resources Development Act, as the legislative vehicle for final action. At the last minute, however, some House members wanted to tack on Voting Rights legislation and the House Rules Committee was unable to agree on moving the bill forward to the House for a final vote. A complicated set of legislative procedures followed, but the end result was passage by both chambers of the combined Water Resources Development Act and NDAA along with a number of other bills including the FY2023 Intelligence Authorization Act.

The NDAA is entitled the James M. Inhofe Defense Authorization Act in honor for Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), who is retiring. For many years he was either Chair or Ranking Member of SASC.

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