U.S. House passes $768 billion annual defense authorization

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (FY2022), authorizing defense spending and addressing defense reforms. The House version of the bill, a compromise that emerged after negotiations between the House and Senate leadership, will now have to be approved by the Senate before it can be signed into law by President Joe Biden.

This year’s bill, which passed the House 363-70, asks the President to provide a ‘Grand Strategy With Respect to China’, advises the Secretary of Defense to deepen alliances in the Indo-Pacific and contains measures to reform how harassment and sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces are prosecuted, among other provisions.

The bill enables the setting up of a 16-member ‘Afghanistan War Commission’ to study the 20-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and “lessons learned” from the last 20 years.

In addition to the ‘Grand Strategy’ on China (a classified document with an unclassified summary), the draft NDAA also asks for a number of other reports related to the country, including Beijing’s missile development, a comparative study of U.S. and China’s development and deployment of hypersonics and China’s influence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

On the Indo-Pacific, the bill says, “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense should recommit to and strengthen United States defense alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region so as to further the comparative advantage of the United States in strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” and goes on to name countries and alliances with which the administration is advised to deepen ties. When an act becomes law, a ‘Sense of Congress’ clause in it is not legally binding on the administration, but a signal from Congress on the direction of policy.

Countries and alliances named include Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, ASEAN, India (mentioned in this order) and others. The bill calls for “investing in an enhanced military posture and capabilities” in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area.

With regard to India, the legislation calls for the “broadening” of U.S. engagement with India, “including through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue — to advance the shared objective of a free and open Indo-Pacific region through bilateral and multilateral engagements and participation in military exercises, expanded defense trade, and collaboration on humanitarian aid and disaster response; and to enable greater cooperation on maritime security and the threat of global pandemics, including COVID–19.”