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Senate NDAA has $13 billion extra for defense inflation

The bill includes new hardware plus a pay raise for troops and their families, chairman says

A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies over members of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces during  a military exercise June 30 in southwestern Morocco.
A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies over members of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces during a military exercise June 30 in southwestern Morocco. (Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images)

The Senate Armed Services Committee recommended $45 billion more for national defense in fiscal 2023 than President Joe Biden sought, and the panel disclosed Monday that $13 billion of the increase would go toward offsetting the effect of surging inflation on Pentagon buying power.

The committee filed on Monday its fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act and the accompanying report and funding tables. The Senate’s NDAA is named after James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee who is retiring after this year.

The bill would authorize $846.86 billion for defense programs — mainly at the Pentagon and the Energy Department, which manages U.S. nuclear bomb and warhead programs.

Other panels besides Armed Services intend to authorize about $11 billion more for national defense in fiscal 2023. As a result, the Senate’s grand total of proposed defense spending in fiscal 2023 is projected to total $857.46 billion, compared to the House’s approximately $851 billion proposal.

All that money must still be appropriated in separate spending bills, but the two chambers’ NDAAs exert strong influence on the appropriations process.

Inflation’s effect

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its bill on June 16. It is not yet clear when the Senate will debate the measure. The House passed its own version on Thursday.

The Senate committee disclosed in June that it had voted behind closed doors to increase the amount its NDAA would propose authorizing for defense by $45 billion. The panel also made public most of its other key decisions last month.

Senators indicated then that some of the additional $45 billion would go toward counteracting inflation. On Monday, the report accompanying the bill showed that precisely $13 billion went for that purpose.

Consumer inflation in the United States grew in June by 9.1 percent over the previous year. Defense inflation goes by a different measure, and it is not known what prices will be like for the Pentagon from Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023, the time period covered by the legislation. Nonetheless, inflation has already reduced the value of every dollar the Pentagon spends on equipment and pay for troops. And lawmakers fear that buying power will go down further — the only question being how much.

The report showed, too, how much each service and defense agencies got to offset inflation: $2 billion for the Navy and Marine Corps procurement accounts, $1 billion for the Air Force and Space Force procurement programs, etc.

The committee also calls for a Pentagon study of the budgetary effects of inflation.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I. said in a statement Monday that the bill includes new hardware, a pay raise for troops and their families and more.

“To ensure our technological superiority, it strengthens our cyber, hypersonic, and artificial intelligence capabilities, giving our forces advantages on the battlefields of the future,” Reed added.

Missiles and munitions

The Senate committee had indicated last month that some of its recommended $45 billion increase to the defense budget would comprise billions more dollars to procure munitions.

On Monday, the report fleshed out some of the details. It said the panel would authorize spending $2.6 billion more than the president requested for munitions and provided a breakdown: the Army would get $1.4 billion of that, the Navy $675 million and the Air Force $430 million.

The report says the funds should be targeted at a lengthy list of programs to procure artillery or missiles for anti-ship, air-to-air or surface-to-surface missions.

As the U.S. military draws down stocks of munitions to provide them for Ukraine, and as U.S. defense contractors ramp up production of bombs and missiles to further add to Ukraine’s supplies, concern has grown in Washington for maintaining America’s own stockpiles of these expendable weapons, and officials are intent on being prepared for more surges in demand for such weapons in the future.

The Senate panel’s report expresses concerns about many elements of Defense Department policymaking and demands a number of briefings, reports and studies to help the committee better understand departmental decisions.

The subjects at issue run the gamut. They include questions about Pentagon plans for replacing retiring aircraft and ships with new capabilities; ways to ensure semiconductors are secure and capable; how laser systems are going to be incorporated into the military; and ways to improve operational testing of ships.

The committee even requested a report about reports — an annual Pentagon compendium of all the documents that Congress demands that department officials produce.

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