FP4A Statement on Final Passage of the FY2024 NDAA

December 14, 2023

FP4A Statement on Final Passage of the FY2024 NDAA

Washington, D.C. – Foreign Policy for America (FP4A) welcomes congressional passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which addresses critical national defense needs and, unlike legislation passed by the House earlier this year, rejects politicized attacks on programs that enhance the Armed Forces’ ability to attract, retain, and foster skills and support military families. We remain concerned that Congress appears likely to repeat the trend of fully funding Department of Defense budget requests while investments in diplomacy and international engagement continue to be short-changed in ways that directly threaten our national security.

“While we remain concerned about the continuing imbalance between our defense investments and the resourcing of diplomacy and other critical tools of statecraft, there is much to be encouraged by in the FY24 NDAA. This bill will advance our foreign policy priorities, from reauthorizing the State Department again this year, to bolstering American leadership of alliances in the Indo-Pacific, and addressing DOD’s role in driving down emissions and increasing the climate resilience of its installations and operations,” said FP4A’s Senior Director for Policy Bill Monahan. “As we face an expanding set of complex security challenges, FP4A looks forward to working with our partners on the Hill to continue to prioritize investments in the right set of tools and approaches.”

We also note with dismay that the passage of this year’s National Defense Authorization bill comes as Congress remains deadlocked over legislation to address urgent and immediate needs on the ground in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine. Swift approval of the comprehensive supplemental package would provide vital support now that will prevent higher costs in the future.

Looking beyond topline programmatic funding levels in the NDAA, and the broad rejection of politicized attacks on our Defense establishment, we are encouraged by specific elements that were either included or ultimately left out of the final legislation. In a similar vein, there are a few areas where the bill missed the mark.

As a whole, the legislation will contribute to efforts to integrate our defense and foreign policy priorities and provide important tools in support of diplomacy, soft power capabilities, and efforts to address the pervasive and existential threat posed by climate change.

Some strong elements of the legislation include:

Inclusion of the State Department Authorization Act For a third year in a row, Congress has passed a State Department Authorization Act as part of the NDAA, demonstrating a sustained bipartisan commitment to strengthening the Department not seen in decades. This year’s authorization includes a number of provisions aimed at modernizing our diplomacy for the 21st century, including special hiring authorities to recruit more data scientists and IT specialists and the establishment of a new Cyberspace, Digital Connectivity, and Related Technology (CDT) assistance fund to promote an open and secure internet, and expanded multilateral training for diplomats working with international organizations.

Inclusion of the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act – FP4A is also encouraged by the enactment of the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act (FEPA) as part of this year’s NDAA. FEPA will equip U.S. law enforcement with the tools to tackle foreign bribery and corruption at its source and prosecute foreign officials who seek or receive a bribe from a U.S. individual or corporation. It will level the playing field for American companies working in countries with high risks of corruption and protect U.S. national security interests by cracking down on bribery schemes that contribute to drug trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, political and social instability, and global malign influence.

Omission of anti-climate riders and improvement on the GHG contractor rule prohibition – Many of the most egregious provisions from the House-passed NDAA targeting the Department of Defense climate, clean energy, and resilience programs were excluded from final legislation or improved during the conference process, including a provision dealing with pending rulemaking on the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by major federal contractors. Climate change has long been recognized by the Department of Defense and the security establishment as a challenge impacting both their core mission and the environment in which they operate. Politicized efforts to curtail climate-informed military planning and decision-making, including with respect to energy security and resilience, would have undermined national security, and FP4A is encouraged that many of these were ultimately left out.

Inclusion of Kaine provision on NATO Commitment – The bill includes a provision, sponsored by Senator Kaine, prohibiting U.S. withdrawal from NATO unless a supermajority in the Senate agrees. This check on the President’s authority to suspend or terminate the NATO treaty reaffirms the United States’ ironclad commitment to the Atlantic Alliance.

Inclusion of a Global Cooperative Framework to End Human Rights Abuses in Critical Minerals –  The final legislation included a provision from the Senate version of the NDAA directing the Secretary of State to convene a meeting of foreign leaders to establish a multilateral framework to end human rights abuses, including the exploitation of forced labor and child labor, in the mining and sourcing of critical minerals. The imperative to accelerate the transition to a global clean energy economy need not and should not come at the expense of our iron-clad commitment to strengthening human rights protections. Indeed, this principle has been reflected in our approach to negotiating critical minerals agreements with other countries and is at the heart of the Minerals Security Partnership launched in 2022. However, these efforts can benefit through greater international cooperation and coordination.

Areas of concern include:

Omission of RECA – FP4A is disappointed that an expansion of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was ultimately excluded from the NDAA. This expansion, which had strong bipartisan support, would have ensured we are not leaving behind individuals whose health was affected by atomic testing and uranium mining in service to the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

Omission of ADVANCE Act – Another provision that was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor was the bipartisan ADVANCE Act. Included in the NDAA passed by the Senate earlier this year, this measure would both strengthen U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy development, deployment, and regulation and address harms from legacy nuclear activities. Investing in the next generation of nuclear energy will meaningfully contribute to global efforts to tackle climate change and also contribute to our national and energy security by strengthening U.S. capabilities (and our offer to partner countries) in a critical industry increasingly dominated by global competitors.

Inclusion of provisions that undermine nuclear risk reduction efforts – In an environment where nuclear risks are rising, we are also concerned by provisions in the NDAA that erode existing arms control guardrails, like the prohibition on information sharing on the New START Treaty, and contribute to nuclear arms buildup in the United States, like the establishment of the nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile (SCLM-N) as a program of record within the Defense Department, despite the limited value add of this weapon and the potential escalation risks it poses in nuclear use.