Four conservative groups have offered support for amendments proposed by progressive lawmakers to the House’s version of the next defense policy bill that aims to cut defense spending by as much as $100 billion.

Ahead of the House’s start to floor debate of the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday, the National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent a letter to the House Rules Committee leadership urging consideration of measures to reduce Pentagon spending.

Low angled view of the U.S. Capitol East Facade Front in Washington, DC.

“The NDAA topline has grown much too quickly in recent years, and is currently far too high given the nation’s historic levels of debt and deficits. Congress must urgently and comprehensively address debt and deficit reduction, and cuts to defense authorization and appropriation levels are an important component of any comprehensive plan,” the groups wrote in the letter.

The House Armed Services Committee advanced the $840 billion FY ‘23 NDAA out of committee on June 23, after adopting a bipartisan measure to boost the topline by $37 billion, with the lower chamber now set to consider 650 amendments during the course of floor debate this week (Defense Daily, June 23). 

The push for a defense topline increase has been led by Republicans following criticism of President Biden’s request of an $813 billion topline for defense in FY ‘23, including $773 billion for the Pentagon, calling for a larger spending boost to account for inflation impacts.

The conservative groups specifically offer their support for a measure proposed by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), top members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to reduce the NDAA topline by $100 billion. 

The letter also cites support for another amendment led by Lee and Pocan that would reverse HASC’s $37 billion topline boost, noting they prefer the $100 billion cut while adding this proposal “would “nonetheless represent a meaningful effort by Congress to reduce defense spending authorization levels – and, by extension, deficits and debt.”

For equipment-related amendments, the conservative groups urged support for Democratic member-led proposals that would halt funding for the Sentinel program to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile and a measure allowing the Navy to retire nine Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). 

“Though this amendment would move funding from the LCS program into other programs at the Department of Defense, taxpayers will realize multi-year savings by allowing the Navy to retire these ships,” the groups wrote.

The conservative groups have also offered support for an amendment led by Democratic members to repeal the requirement for the Pentagon to submit unfunded priorities lists (UPL) to Congress.

“UPLs put unnecessary upward pressure on defense authorization and appropriation toplines and undermine civilian leadership at the Pentagon. UPLs are often difficult for the public to access and understand as well, reducing transparency in the DoD budget process,” the groups wrote. 

Last month, the Senate Armed Services voted 23 to 3 to advance its own $847 billion version of the FY ‘23 NDAA after adopting a $45 billion topline increase (Defense Daily, June 16).