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National Defense Authorization Act passes House with 4.6% boost to soldier pay

Dec. 8—WASHINGTON — The $858 billion national defense spending bill passed the House on Thursday, authorizing another record year of military and defense spending.

The National Defense Authorization Act passed overwhelmingly, with 350 yeas to 80 nos. The measure outpaces the $813 billion requested earlier by President Joseph R. Biden, but is smaller than the $850 billion originally planned in a June version of the NDAA. It marks a $90 billion increase in military spending over the 2022 NDAA.

Both of the north country's representatives voted to pass the NDAA on Thursday; Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, who will represent most of the north country, and Rep. Claudia L. Tenney, who will represent western Jefferson County, the Finger Lakes and part of Western New York next year following redistricting.

Rep. Stefanik, who will continue to represent Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division and is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she was happy to support the measure in a statement after the vote concluded.

"Our country must never fall behind in providing for a strong national defense, which is why I am proud to bring an end to the Biden Administration's authoritarian COVID vaccine mandate on our servicemen and women that has weakened our military recruitment and impaired our military ranks," she said. "Additionally, I have secured several provisions to support Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, the most deployed Army division since 9/11, which is integral to our nation's military readiness."

In a similar statement, Rep. Tenney said she was proud to pass a budget that called for even more spending that the president requested.

"The bill includes $45 billion more than was requested by President Biden. It stops his harmful cuts to the construction of battle force ships as well as his proposed reductions to the procurement of new combat vehicles, missiles, and much more," she said.

This version of the NDAA calls for a 4.6% spike in soldiers' pay, plus another $750 million to cover food and housing costs that have seen their prices spike because of inflation.

As Rep. Stefanik lauded, service members will no longer be subject to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the new year.

Rep. Tenney said she was proud to see spending this year on modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

There are millions more authorized for support of the Ukrainian military amid the Russian invasion. Language in the 2023 NDAA calls for independent oversight of those funds, answering a call many Republicans have made to watch Ukrainian aid spending more closely.

For Fort Drum, $10 million will be spent on the kind of short-range reconnaissance drones that are used by the 10th Mountain Division, and provides $32.5 million for arctic equipment for soldiers and groups in the 10th Mountain Division. $3.6 million was appropriated for a new firing range for new weapons technology.

Again, the NDAA calls for an assessment on the viability of putting a missile defense program at Fort Drum, a program Rep. Stefanik has long supported despite continued disinterest from the Department of Defense.

A measure championed by Rep. Stefanik, the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes Waterway Protection Act is included in this year's NDAA, which will require the Coast Guard to study the impact of a potential oil spill in the St. Lawrence River and develop a response plan.

Cleanup of former military sites is funded with $25 million in the 2023 NDAA, plus multiple millions in funding for research projects at the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, Oneida County.

This version of the NDAA has to return to the Senate for a vote, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support, before going to the president's desk. He is expected to sign it into law before the end of the year.