The U.S. Senate has passed the 2022 annual defense spending bill. This year’s $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill is up by 5 percent when compared to the previous version. It now awaits the approval of President Joe Biden.
The higher spending budget is expected to allow the Pentagon to build more ships. $740 billion has been designated for the Department of Defense, which is $25 billion more than what Biden had asked for. The bill was passed with a vote of 88-11.
“Our nation faces an enormous range of security challenges… To that end, this bill makes great progress… It addresses a broad range of pressing issues from strategic competition with China and Russia; to disruptive technologies like hypersonics, A.I. and quantum computing; to modernizing our ships, aircraft, and vehicles,” Democrat Senator Jack Reed, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
A fund aimed at the Indo-Pacific region has been tripled from last year. The Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) received $7.1 billion in funding, more than the $5.1 billion that was requested by the Biden administration. The fund will be used to boost the construction of military and other infrastructure facilities in the region as well as upgrade existing ones. It will also be used to improve supply lines for fuel and ammunition.
Washington is reportedly looking to distribute its forces in the Info-Pacific region along the Philippines, Taiwan, and Okinawa areas since leaving these forces in only a few locations can put them at risk of a missile strike from China
The bill seeks to set up an advanced missile system in Guam, which houses a U.S. Air Force base. The bill calls for deeper interoperability between Taiwanese and American forces in areas like air domain awareness, missile defense systems, and so on.
The boost in funding for PDI comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently vowed to strengthen America’s military power in the Indo-Pacific. In a speech in Jakarta on Dec. 14, Blinken asserted that the Indo-Pacific will “shape the trajectory” of the world in this century. Washington is committed to a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, he stated.
“We will bolster Indo-Pacific security. Threats are evolving, and our security approach must evolve with them. To do that, we will lean on our greatest strength: our alliances and partnerships… The United States will adopt an “integrated deterrence” strategy that more closely weaves together all our instruments of national power with those of our allies and partners,” Blinken said.
The NDAA bill bans the Defense Department from procuring products identified as having been produced from forced labor from China’s northwest Xinjiang region. $300 million is set aside for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that will support armed forces of the Eastern European country.
$150 million will be spent on Baltic security cooperation and $4 billion on the European Defense Initiative. The 2022 spending budget will allow the Pentagon to buy 85 Lockheed Martin-built F-35 fighters, 17 F-15EX jets, and 2 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters. Troop members will get a 2.7 percent pay increase.
The bill has garnered criticism from some Republicans who accuse it of propagating woke” leftist doctrine. In an op-ed published by The Hill, a group of GOP members described how parts of the bill encourage indoctrination in critical race theory and other left-wing policies while reducing military preparedness.