On December 15th, by a vote of 83-11, the Senate passed and sent to President Biden the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, which the House approved on July 14th, includes, among other provisions, the following (summary from the official Congressional website):
This bill authorizes Department of Defense (DOD) activities for FY2023 and addresses other issues.
For example, the bill
- authorizes the procurement of various items, including destroyers and aircraft;
- modifies inventory requirements for various Air Force programs;
- authorizes DOD to furnish electric vehicle charging stations at commissary stores and military exchanges;
- requires DOD to provide, subject to appropriations, support for the research and development of innovative bioindustrial manufacturing processes;
- requires DOD to carry out a pilot program to facilitate the transition of certain nontactical vehicles to electric vehicles;
- requires the Army and the Navy to jointly carry out a pilot program to evaluate the feasibility of using data recorders to monitor the operation of military tactical vehicles;
- prescribes end strengths for the branches of the Armed Forces;
- requires the branches of the Armed Forces to notify Congress before taking certain actions regarding reserve units, such as the deactivation or reassignment of such a unit;
- requires the Army to establish gender-neutral fitness standards for military occupational specialties that are higher than those for noncombat military occupational specialties;
- requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to Congress recommendations for improving the retention and recruitment of members who specialize in Army air and missile defense systems, and requires the Army to implement the recommendations;
- requires the GAO to report to Congress a review of a major military health contract after DOD has entered into the contract;
- temporarily prohibits certain TRICARE programs (health care programs that cover current and former members of the uniformed services and their dependents) from imposing cost-sharing requirements for prescription contraceptives and certain related services;
- requires the Department of Homeland Security to designate a laboratory as the Chemical Security Analysis Center;
- requires the Department of the Treasury to take actions to support international initiatives to provide debt restructuring and relief to developing countries;
- prohibits federal regulators from taking certain adverse actions against a depository institution solely for providing financial services to a cannabis-related business operating pursuant to state or local law;
- provides statutory authority for an April 27, 2021, executive order raising the minimum wage for the employees of federal contractors;
- prohibits barring a veteran from federal employment solely because the veteran consumes or has consumed cannabis;
- imposes data standards requirements on certain federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; and
- establishes the San Gabriel National Recreation Area in California as a unit of the National Park System.
Not listed in the summary are two items of note. First, the COVID vaccination mandate for military personnel has been lifted.
SEC. 525. ELIMINATION OF TIME LIMIT FOR MANDATORY CHARACTERIZATIONS OF ADMINISTRATIVE DISCHARGES OF CERTAIN MEMBERS ON THE BASIS OF FAILURE TO RECEIVE COVID-19 VACCINE.
Section 736(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (Public Law 117-81; 10 U.S.C. 1161 note) is amended in the matter preceding paragraph (1) by striking “During the time period beginning on August 24, 2021, and ending on the date that is two years after the date of the enactment of this Act, any” and inserting “Any”.
Second, more money from, and easing of requests to pay back same from, Ukraine. As summarized by FOX News:
A provision in the defense spending bill would also allow Ukraine to delay payments on the hundreds of billions of dollars borrowed from the United States and other countries.
In addition to the delay of payments, the bill also increases funding to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative by $800 billion.
And the beat goes on.