5 Things to Watch in the Coming NDAA Markup Process

By: Pete Landrum, BGR Principal, and Dan Greenwood, BGR Senior Vice President 

In the next few weeks, Congress will begin the consideration process for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation, which impacts defense spending and key procurement and policy issues throughout the federal government, will first move through the subcommittee markup process next week, June 8th. Here are five key issues to watch as the NDAA moves forward.

1 – What will the DOD topline budget amount be?  The world is not getting nicer. There are already rumblings on the Hill that President Biden’s proposed defense budget will not be sufficient given the number of global threats and current state of inflation. Will those rumblings turn into a higher top line for the Department of Defense (DOD) in the NDAA? It’s very likely.

2 – How will the U.S./European security posture be affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine?  The status quo in Europe is no more. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will define actions by the U.S. and NATO for many years to come. How will that look?  More unity and more money from all. European security is no longer just a talking point—it’s real. Look for lawmakers to amp up weapons and forces in and around Europe in the NDAA.

3 – Will the potential of Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific Theater affect policy decisions?  The parallels with Ukraine and Taiwan are pretty scary. Will those parallels affect this year’s NDAA? Very likely, yes. Lethal aid to protect yourself seems much more acceptable, if not plain required.  Service transformational requirements, major weapons programs, cyber capabilities, and even basing/military construction could all see increases to address the Indo-Pacific challenges.   

4 – How will the Space Force be factored in to the NDAA calculus this cycle? Is the Space Force a real factor in U.S. defense planning? Is military space essential for U.S. defense planning and execution?  Without a doubt, the answer is yes. Will policy decisions evidenced in the NDAA show that the Space Force is real? A tepid yes. We’ll have to stay tuned on this one.

5 – Which major technology areas will be emphasized for priority funding—AI/Machine Learning, Robotics, Directed Energy, Quantum Computing, Hypersonics, Microelectronics? What some call the 25-year war is at stake here. Will we have the technology required to fight and win the nation’s wars 20-30 years from now? Without substantial investment in future technology now, it won’t happen. FY2022 saw record congressional spending for research and development in emerging technologies. Everyone will be watching the levels of investment in DOD’s 14 Critical Technologies this year.