Final NDAA shakes up military prosecutions, boosts Indo-Pacific fund

A compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act set to be released Tuesday includes significant overhauls to the military justice system and green lights more funding for efforts to deter Russia and China.

The details of the final legislation, hammered out in recent days by the House and Senate, were included in summaries from House Armed Services Democrats and the committee’s Republican minority, obtained by POLITICO ahead of the bill’s formal release.

Locking in a higher top line: The bill authorizes a total of $768 billion for national defense programs. That includes $740 billion for the Pentagon, as lawmakers locked in a $25 billion increase to President Joe Biden’s first defense budget request.

The bill also authorizes $27.8 billion for nuclear weapons activities that fall under the Department of Energy.

Military justice: According to the summary, the final bill removes military commanders from decisions to prosecute a series of crimes, including rape, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter and kidnapping.

The provisions appear to be less expansive than a wholesale move to strip commanders of their authority to prosecute all felonies, a movement led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that was included in the Senate bill. But it also appears broader than the more limited move to address only sex crimes, which was endorsed by the Pentagon.

Private Guard funding: The compromise bans private money from being used to fund a National Guard deployment in another state, except for natural disaster emergencies.

The provision was attached to the House defense bill, stemming from a controversy in which the state of South Dakota accepted private donor funding to send Guard troops to assist on the southern border.

China and Indo-Pacific: The bill authorizes $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, meant to beef up U.S. posture in the region and deter China, a roughly $2 billion increase from what the Biden administration requested.

Defense secretary qualifications: The bill includes a provision, pushed by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and approved by House Armed Services, that would set a higher bar for recently retired military officers to lead the Pentagon.

The final bill extends the limitation on how long a retired general or admiral must be out of uniform before becoming eligible for the top job from seven to 10 years.

The compromise also increases the cooling off period for military officers to become civilian service secretaries from five to seven years.


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