WASHINGTON ― The House Armed Services Committee has endorsed a Republican plan to add $24 billion more than President Joe Biden requested for defense, easing the path for spending on additional ships, aircraft and ground vehicles.
The panel voted 42-17 during its markup of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, with 14 Democrats joining Republicans on the $23.9 billion measure. It was offered by the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who called Biden’s budget request inadequate to deter Russia and China.
Though appropriations bills ultimately set spending levels, the vote is a strong step toward boosting defense after the Senate Armed Services Committee, on a bipartisan basis, advanced its own $25 billion increase in July. If approved, the new top-line spending level for defense would be $740 billion.
The plus-up is expected to repel progressive Democrats and attract Republicans for the committee’s vote on the NDAA the evening of Sept. 1 and the full House’s vote later this month.
“I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration,” Rogers said. “The defense of our nation will not be shortchanged by Congress. I thank my colleagues for adopting this amendment to support the men and women who serve in our armed forces.”
The measure would increase research and development by $5.2 billion and weapons procurement spending by $9.8 billion, drawing significantly from the military’s unfunded priorities lists. The bulk of the procurement spending goes to sea power, protecting three cruisers the Navy sought to retire and buying another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, an amphibious assault ship and a third Virginia-class submarine.
HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., opposed the plus-up, arguing it takes the pressure off the Pentagon to rid its budget of waste. But the most vocal opposition came from progressives, who argued that increasing defense spending conflicts with Democratic priorities and that the end of the war in Afghanistan ought to yield savings for domestic issues.
“It’s remarkable to me that as we end our long and expensive campaign in Afghanistan, so many are concluding that what we need is more war, more weapons and billions of dollars more than even what the Pentagon is asking for,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif. “And that many of the very same voices who say they are very worried about our debt and deficit are also demanding a sizable increase to this bill.”
HASC Vice Chair Elaine Luria, D-Va., was the first Democrat to announce support, citing the need to stabilize the shipbuilding industrial base and stand up to China, but she was followed at the hearing by other centrist Democrats.
“The leadership at the Department of Defense has expressed a need for funding that exceeds what has come in the president’s budget request,” said Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. “Last month I traveled to [the Indo-Pacific Command theater]. I think the threat is real; our qualitative advantage is at risk. Our adversaries ― China, Russia ― create dilemmas and threats.”
Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.