US defense bill authorizes more Ukraine and Taiwan aid
US lawmakers have reached a compromise on the National Defense Authorization Act, agreeing to approve $45 billion more in overall military spending in 2023 than President Joe Biden had requested, as well as multiple provisions for new “security assistance” to Ukraine and increased cooperation with Taiwan.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees released their final draft of the NDAA on Tuesday night following lengthy negotiations, seeking to bring it up for a vote in the House by the end of the week. The massive spending bill would devote a total of $858 billion for next year’s defense budget, with lawmakers arguing the increase compared to 2022 is needed due to soaring inflation and costly arms shipments to Kiev.
In addition to setting out basic yearly funding for the Defense Department and the Department of Energy, which manages America’s nuclear arsenal, the latest NDAA would approve another $800 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative – $500 million more than President Biden’s initial request.
Since February, the Biden administration has approved more than $19 billion in direct military aid for Kiev from the Pentagon’s stockpiles, and the bill seeks additional funding to boost production and replenish the US military’s dwindling stocks.
US officials also agreed to require periodic reports from the Pentagon in the “short and medium term” on US arms sent to Ukraine, after several Republican lawmakers raised concerns that American weapons were not being properly tracked on reaching the country’s chaotic battlefield.
The new spending bill also authorizes the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act, which is designed to “increase security cooperation” with the island and would allocate up to $10 billion for that purpose over the next five years. The latter provision is likely to trigger condemnation from Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and has repeatedly urged Washington to halt all direct dealings with Taipei.
Another project targeting China, the US Pacific Deterrence Initiative, will receive another $11.5 billion in new investments under the current draft legislation. The Pentagon has noted the initiative aims to confront the supposed “multi-domain threat” posed by Beijing and expand the US military footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.
Considered ‘must-pass’ legislation due to its increasingly wide scope, versions of the NDAA have been approved by US lawmakers every year since 1961. The measure is also frequently described as a “legislative vehicle,” as Republicans and Democrats usually seek to include a range of issues unrelated to defense in each year’s spending bill.