National Defense Authorization Act passes U.S. House with amendments from Nebraska representative

June 18, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

U.S. soldiers saluting
(Photo from Adobe Stock)

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The U.S. House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for the 2025 fiscal year on a 217-199 vote Friday.

The NDAA authorizes nearly $900 billion in military spending, a slight increase from the previous year, and automatically registers men ages 18-26 for the selective service draft.

The bill also includes 21 amendments from Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon, who served as the chairman of the quality-of-life subcommittee for the legislation.

Bacon, a Republican who represents Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, said the cornerstone of the bill is a 19.5% pay raise for junior enlisted service members.

He said many soldiers are on food stamps or living in substandard facilities.

“You're not getting paid enough. You're getting housing allowance subtracted. And then a third factor we identified was military spouses are the third highest demographic for unemployment,” Bacon said. “If you put all this together, our enlisted, particularly our junior enlisted, are under a lot of stress, and we want to do something about it.”

Bacon said quality of life issues are the biggest reason why military recruitment is hurting.

“When you're having families having a hard time putting food on the table and having to go to food banks, if you’re in the enlisted ranks, you’re like, ‘Hey, do I want this for my son or daughter?’” he said.

Congressman Don Bacon head shot wearing a dark blue suit and bright blue tie with American flag behind him.
Don Bacon (Courtesy photo)

Bacon also said the botched military exit from Afghanistan, more high-paying opportunities from the private sector and a perception that military senior leadership is more concerned with social engineering than warfighting is keeping the military from hitting recruitment goals.

“I think the perception is worse than reality,” Bacon said. “However, there is some reality there, because you can see it on social media at some of our bases. Some of the releases from our mid-level commanders have very woke messages, and then you have people in my district, they read this stuff, and they say, ‘Man, we didn’t do that when I was in the military.’”

All but three Republicans voted in favor of the House NDAA, while only six Democrats voted for the legislation, largely due to amendments targeting transgender medical care, abortion access, and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

The House NDAA would keep the military from reimbursing out-of-state travel expenses for service members getting abortions and stop the military health care service from performing gender transition surgeries.

Another amendment would end hiring for diversity, equity and inclusion jobs within the Department of Defense and eliminate the role of chief diversity officer.

Bacon said he believes most of those provisions will go away when the bill is reconciled with the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“I think you’re going to get a very bipartisan end result,” he said. “That’s what happened last year and that’s what happened the year before, so I believe that’s the new normal. “

In a statement to Nebraska Public Media News, Nebraska Republican Rep. Mike Flood wrote, "We’re still early in the NDAA process, and both houses of Congress will have to negotiate a final version of the legislation. President Biden needs to come to the table to work with Republicans so we can deliver an NDAA that helps our service members provide for their families. It’s the least we can do for them as they put their lives on the line to serve our country.”

The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, which includes Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, finished its markup of the bill last week.

The Senate version of the NDAA is expected to be voted on by the full Senate later this summer.