US House Working To Pass, Merge Similar Defense Authorization Bill To Sen. Inhofe’s

Thursday, July 14th 2022, 5:25 pm


The U.S. House was expected Thursday to pass its version of what could end up being the nation's largest-ever defense authorization bill, one that will ultimately be merged with the Senate version named for retiring Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. 

The topline number in the legislation approved last month by the House Armed Services Committee is $840 billion, an increase of about $37 billion over the proposal included in President Biden’s 2023 budget recommendation. The Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Sen. Inhofe is the highest ranking Republican, approved an even larger boost: $45 billion, for a topline of $847 billion. 

“That was my amendment,” Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) said in an interview Thursday. “That was the first amendment that we took up and the first amendment that passed.” 

The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the NDAA in mid-June. 

Inhofe and SASC Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) say a portion of the increase was needed simply to keep up with high inflation. 

House members, meanwhile, spent several hours Wednesday debating a wide range of proposed amendments and resumed the process early Thursday. HASC leadership expressed some frustration that certain amendments submitted by members seemed only peripherally related to the military’s mission. 

"There were over 1,200 amendments filed by House members," said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, in an interview Wednesday, "and it’s taking some time to weed through those. We’ve started the debate process and are voting on those amendments, and hopefully will finish up sometime later tonight." 

Rep. Bice said she was confident the House would pass its version of the Defense Authorization Act with strong bipartisan support. 

"We will, and there will certainly be some members that have concerns about the spending levels," Bice acknowledged, "but what I remind people is, just like with the last year's NDAA, there will be a conference process, which means the Senate passes their version, the House passes their version, they come together and really figure out those issues that don’t have agreement and either remove them completely or find some sort of consensus." 

Bice says the House version of the NDAA, like the president's budget, includes $30 million for the acquisition of land east of Oklahoma City where a new B-21 maintenance facility will be constructed. She also says the House bill mirrors the Senate's version in requiring the Air Force slow the pace of decommissioning Tinker's AWACS fleet, while speeding up the acquisition of the Pentagon's chosen replacement -- the E-7 Wedgetail. 

"And the good news is [the E-7's] are being built for Australia and Great Britain right now so they are in production, they’re being utilized in other countries," Bice said, "we have the ability to acquire at least one, maybe two in a fairly short timeframe." 

Sen. Inhofe says he was concerned the Air Force was moving too quickly to retire the E-3 Sentry planes and too slowly to bring the replacement aircraft online. 

"We want to make sure that we keep the E-3 in active status until we have everything ready," Sen. Inhofe said. "We don’t want to have a void time." 

Inhofe says, this being his last NDAA, it means more than it normally does, which is already quite a lot. 

"This, to me, is the most significant bill of the year every year," Inhofe remarked. "It’s passed every year for 61 years." 

That his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee chose to name this year's bill after him, he says, is very touching. 

"It means a lot," Inhofe allowed. "It’s not part of my exit strategy, but it means a lot."