By Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. lawmakers agreed to provide Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year and to boost Taiwan with billions in aid over the next several years, according to an $858 billion defense policy bill unveiled on Tuesday.
The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over President Joe Biden’s request earlier this year.
The bill also strengthens the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, with $11.5 billion in new investments. And it authorizes the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act of 2022, legislation to increase security cooperation with Taiwan with up to $10 billion in spending over five years.
The compromise version of the NDAA, a must-pass bill setting policy for the Pentagon, is the result of months of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The overall bill authorizes $45 billion more in defense spending than Biden requested, as congressional negotiators sought to address the effects of global inflation and provide additional security assistance for Ukraine.
Passed every year since 1961, the NDAA addresses everything from pay increases for U.S. troops – this year’s is 4.6% – to how many ships or aircraft can be purchased to how to address China and Russia. Because it is must-pass legislation, lawmakers use the NDAA as a vehicle for a range of initiatives.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA includes a provision demanded by many Republican members in Congress that requires the Secretary of Defense to rescind a mandate requiring that members of the armed forces be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Critics of big tech companies including Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google tried but ultimately failed to include in the NDAA a measure that would allow news organizations to band together to demand more revenue from the tech giants.
The bill includes $2.7 billion to boost munitions production capacity while temporarily waiving some restrictions on contracts for munitions to support Ukraine.
The bill authorizes the more funds to develop hypersonic weapons, close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii and purchase existing weapons systems including Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jets and ships made by General Dynamics.
The fiscal 2023 NDAA is expected to pass the Senate and House of Representatives this month, and be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law.
However, the bill is not the final word on spending. Authorization bills, like the NDAA, only create programs. Congress must pass appropriations bills to give the government legal authority to spend federal money.
Congressional leaders have not yet agreed on an appropriations bill for next year.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Mike Stone; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz and Eric Beech; Editing by Scott Malone, Christian Schmollinger, Tom Hogue and Lincoln Feast.)