Congress might not clear defense spending, policy bills until December

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said budget delays could mean a continuing resolution to start fiscal 2022.

By Orhan Cam Royalty-free stock photo ID: 546416560 United States Capitol Building in Washington DC USA
 

The defense spending and authorization bills for fiscal 2022 might not clear Congress until December thanks to the White House’s late budget submission, increasing the likelihood of yet another continuing resolution.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters July 15 that the committee’s bill, which is being marked up next week, “will be voted on and out of committee before the August break, but I don’t know if we’ll have a vote on the [National Defense Authorization Act] before the August break.”

Gillibrand said the NDAA vote may have to be pushed to the fall. The House Armed Services Committee plans to do a full committee markup of its version of the bill Sept. 1.

“So we won’t have a House and Senate version at least until probably October,” Gillibrand said, adding that the timeline could move faster but likely not by much. “And then appropriations always have their own timeline. So, all tied up? December.”

The timeline crunch is due to the White House not submitting a budget until late May, which lawmakers worried would delay the legislative processes around getting the defense spending and necessary authorization bills passed in time to avoid a continuing resolution.

The Biden administration’s first budget, totaling $6 trillion, has been derided by Republicans for a proposed flat defense budget at $715 billion in discretionary spending, and praised by others for its focus on cybersecurity and workforce benefits and pay -- two things Gillibrand said will help determine the outcome of future wars.

“There's enormous respect for the sacrifices that men and women have made over the last 20 years with the wars on terror,” Gillibrand said. “I think that has not diminished. And I think what's happening now is a realization that tomorrow's wars are going to be very different [from] yesterday's wars.”

That means focusing on election security and getting the proper authorities to protect infrastructure from cyber attacks.

“We do not see an attack on our election infrastructure the same as we'd see an attack on our subway, a bombing of some infrastructure in America, but it's the same thing from a cyber perspective,” said Gillibrand, who sits on the SASC’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity.

That also means increasing cyber and technology training and recruiting efforts in the federal government.

“I want to expand who is seen as our defenders,” Gillibrand said, by “working on how do we convince the next generation to be our cyber defenders and our cyber warriors of the future. How do we make sure that we can out compete Russia and China in Iran, understanding that the warfare will be conducted within our own networks within our own country, and that you don't need to have invading forces to be successful at undermining the national security and stability of another nation.”

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