House Passes Compromise FY2022 NDAA

House Passes Compromise FY2022 NDAA

A new version of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act crafted by the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees passed the House tonight. Released just a few hours ago, the annual defense policy bill won quick approval and is on its way to the Senate where expectations are high that it will pass there as well.

The House passed its version of the NDAA in September. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) reported its version in July, but the Senate did not take it up until mid-November. Hundreds of amendments were proposed and efforts by Senate leadership to cull them into a manageable number and move forward have been blocked at many turns.

The bipartisan, bicameral leadership of the SASC and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) — Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and James Inouye (R-OK) and Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mike Turner (R-AL) — are united in their determination to pass the bill this year. The NDAA is the only authorization bill that has been enacted every year since the first in 1961 despite all the political turmoil over those decades. Last year Congress, even with the Senate under Republican control, overrode President Trump’s veto of the bill because even his stauchest allies were adamant that the bill is critical to national defense.

They led the effort to come up with a compromise version that the Senate could take up instead of the one that is currently bogged down, S. 2792. The compromise is based on the SASC-approved S. 2792 and the House-passed H.R. 4350.

The new bill, S. 1605, passed the House this evening by a vote of 363-70.  (S. 1605 was an unrelated bill that is being used as the legislative vehicle for the NDAA to speed up the process, so the text of the NDAA replaces the original text.) It authorizes $768.2 billion for national defense, of which $740 billion is for DOD, $27.8 billion is for the Department of Energy (which manages the nation’s nuclear stockpile), and $0.4 billion is for defense-related activities. The amount for DOD is $25 billion above the request.  The joint explanatory statement is posted on the House Rules Committee website.

A 27-page committee summary of the bill includes the following recap of key space-related provisions.

Among other issues of interest, the final bill does not include a House provision that would have prohibited the use of funds to plan, design, or construct a U.S. Space Command Headquarters until after the DOD Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office complete their reviews of how the Trump Administration decided to place it in Huntsville, AL.  Critics argue that President Trump gave it to Alabama as a political favor and did not follow DOD basing guidelines.

It also does not include a House requirement to create a Space National Guard within 18 months, which the Senate and the Biden Administration opposed, or a Senate-proposed alternative, which the Biden Administration supported, to rename the Air National Guard the Air and Space National Guard. Instead, the final version calls for a study by the Secretary of Defense.

The House passed a requirement that within 90 days of enanctment, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in consultation with others in DOD, the Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, the Administrator of NASA, and the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office each submit lists of prioritized objectives to the National Space Council with respect to “establishing norms of behavior in space to be addressed through bilateral and multilateral negotiations relating to an international rules-based order in space. The goal would be to bolster and further develop the international rules-based order, particularly as it applies to the space domain.” The Space Council was tasked with consolidating the lists and the Secretary of State to use the result as a guide to establishing a framework for bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

That was replaced in this final version by language requiring the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Commander of U.S. Space Command, and the Chief of Space Operations of the U.S. Space Force, to submit a prioritized list to the Space Council “with respect to establishing norms of behavior to be addressed through bilateral and multilateral negotiations for verifiable rules-based order in space, including with respect to events that create space debris, rendezvous and proximity operations, and other appropriate matters.” It does not mention the other agencies. The 90-day time limit is the same.

The issue of firefighters getting access to data from military satellites to fight wildfires, highlighted by the New York Times in October, was addressed in both the House and SASC versions of the bill. The final version replaces them with a requirement that within 180 days of enactment the Secretary of Defense provide a report to 10 congressional committees covering a lengthy list of topics. They include examining the current and future sensing requirements for wildfire fighting, identifying DOD and Intelligence Community assets that can help, identifying the costs reimbursed to DOD over the past 5 years for requests for assistance from agencies responding to natural disasters, and discussing issues involved in producing unclassified products from classified assets. The list goes on for more than a page of the explanatory statement.

Many other reports are required from various officials including on space debris, threats to U.S. operations in space from Russia, China, or other countries, and investments needed for commercial on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing.


This article has been updated.

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