Both the House and Senate passed their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act with big margins. Seamus Daniels, Program Manager and Research Associate for Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, talked about the similarities and differences between these bills.
Daniels noted that there are not very many major disagreements or differences between the two versions. One major provision in both bills is the renaming of military bases that honor confederate officers – the House version requires that the bases will be renamed within one year, and the Senate version specifies three years.
When asked if this could be an easy negotiation process, Daniels responded, “well, nothing is ever easy on Capitol Hill, as you point out. The major sticking point here is that President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA if it includes provisions that rename the military bases.” Despite bipartisan support and veto-proof majorities, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe recently said that he wants to remove the base renaming provisions from the final version of the bill.
Another noteworthy initiative in both versions of the bill, Daniels pointed out, is the creation of regionally focused funds on the Pacific. The House version is the Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative, and the Senate version is the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. These are based on the European Deterrence Initiative, which the Obama administration established in 2014 after the Russian invasion of Crimea. Daniels explained that the funds focus on implementing the National Defense Strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. “They will be focusing on logistics capabilities within the region, dispersing our force structure and basing within the region, and reassuring partners and allies,” he explained.
Daniels said that he “wouldn’t be surprised if a Biden administration continues this focus on the Indo-Pacific region,” given that “focusing on China has been a major bipartisan policy for the past ten years now.”
Daniels said that the question of confederate bases will be the most likely to stand in the way of the NDAA process. Other differences he will watch include a provision in the House bill to limit the administration’s use of funds for military construction projects in the event of a national emergency, which is an attempt to limit the president’s authority to direct more funds towards a border wall, Daniels explained. The House bill also limits the president’s authority to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as well as from Germany and Europe.