A compromise National Defense Authorization Act released late Tuesday would authorize the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to spend some $880 million more than requested, more than the House or Senate had proposed individually.
The House Rules Committee reconvened at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday
, during which time the committee planned to write the rules of debate necessary to bring this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the House floor for a vote. The House and Senate much each approve the bill before President Biden can sign it into law.
Overall, the NNSA would be authorized to spend about $22.3 billion if the compromise NDAA becomes law. The White House requested a little less than $21.5 million. The annual must-pass bill sets policy and spending limits for defense programs. Separate appropriations bills provide funding.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, which had proposed more money for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) than their House counterparts, generally got its way when it came to proposed spending in the compromise bill.
One area where the House Armed Services Committee prevailed was NNSA’s Stockpile Research, Technology, & Engineering portfolio, which in the compromise bill would receive the House-authorized budget of roughly $3.1 billion instead of just under $2.9 billion, as requested.
The compromise bill also would authorize some $1.2 billion in spending on the largest of the NNSA’s two planned plutonium pit plants: the one at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. That’s about $500 million more than requested and $125 million more than the House proposed.
The compromise NDAA also prohibits the NNSA from retiring most B83 megaton capable gravity bombs until the agency reports to Congress on why the U.S. can still hold hardened and buried targets at risk without the big bomb. The prohibition originated this year with the Senate Armed Services Committee, but the compromise bill softened it and allows the NNSA to retire up to 25% of the B83 stockpile that existed as of Sept. 30.
The Biden administration wanted to complete dismantle all B83 bombs.
Meanwhile, the 2023 NDAA also allows the chairperson of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to effectively become, for up to one year, the board itself. The chair can only assume those powers if the board lacks a three-member quorum, according to the bill.