House Begins Debate on FY2022 NDAA

House Begins Debate on FY2022 NDAA

The House is about to begin debate on the FY2022 National Defense Authorizaton Act (NDAA). The NDAA is the only authorization bill that can boast a perfect track record in becoming law year after year for 60 years. This almost certainly will be the 61st. Two years after the FY2020 NDAA created the U.S Space Force, the issues this year are less consequential for space activities.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees, HASC and SASC, have each approved their versions of the FY2022 NDAA, but the House is first to bring the bill to the floor.

HASC reported the bill, H.R. 4350, on September 2 after a marathon overnight markup, but few of the issues concerned DOD’s space activities. At $17.5 billion, funding for the Space Force is almost an afterthought in a bill that provides $744 billion for national defense, of which $716 billion is for DOD. Policy issues are relatively subdued this year, although the bill does call for prioritizing objectives for establishing international norms of behavior, continuing the quest to improve space acquisitions, and establish the Space National Guard.

Of the over 800 amendments offered to the NDAA after it was approved by committee, only a few were space-related and fewer still were approved to proceed to the floor for debate. The most controversial, a Huffman-Pocan amendment to abolish the Space Force, did not make the cut.

The six that did are likely will be incorporated into “en bloc” amendments that combine dozens of amendments and are voted on collectively.

Three require reports on space debris and mitigation strategies. A Trahan (D-MA) amendment requires a report from the National Space Council on the assessment of the risks space debris imposes on night sky luminance, collision risk, radio interference, astronomical data loss by satellite streaks, and other potential factors relevant to space exploration, research, and national security. A Jackson-Lee (D-TX) amendment requires a report from the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) within 240 days on risks posed by space debris and how to remediate them. A Lamborn (R-CO) amendment requires a report from the SecDef on mitigating space debris through on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing capabilties.

A Carabjal (D-CA) amendment requires the Chief of Space Operations to consider commercial launch when completing the space launch range infrastructure report required by the bill.

A Kelly (D-Il) and Gonzalez (R-OH) amendment requires a briefing “at the highest levels of classification” by the Secretary of Defense to the National Space Council, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of NASA and relevant congressional committees on safety threats to U.S. civil and commercial satellites posed by foreign governments, especially China.

The top House Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), requires the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a biennial (in 2023 and 2025) infrastructure assessment for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s  Aerospace Systems Directorate’s Rocket Propulsion Division and challenges to meeting its mission. The Division is at Edwards Air Force Base in McCarthy’s district.

None of these is controversial. The debate over the NDAA will focus on big ticket items like total funding, specific weapons systems and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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