The Final NDAA Package: Inclusions and Exclusions

Reimagining the Fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act

Reimagining the Fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act

The Senate Takes a Step Towards Voting on the Fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act

The Senate took its first procedural step Thursday on the conference deal for the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a vote early next week on a massive policy measure packed with energy and climate provisions.

Democrats and Republicans Collaborate on a Bipartisan Defense Bill

The 82-15 vote followed weeks of negotiations among leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees that culminated late Wednesday when they released an $886 billion compromise bill. It rejects the most extreme Republican proposals against efforts to address climate change while empowering the Defense Department to make advancements in nuclear fuel production, mineral acquisition, and environmental remediation.

Strengthening America’s National Security and Innovation

“The annual defense bill is a prime example of both sides cooperating on a strong, bipartisan package to strengthen America’s national security, to take care of our service members [and] keep the United States the leader in innovation,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor Thursday.

Republicans’ Attempt to Thwart Climate Agenda Falls Short

Republicans in the House had hoped to use the must-pass bill to thwart pillars of the Biden administration’s climate agenda. Democrats, meanwhile, countered many of those provisions in a push to shore up efforts to counter climate change and make the bill more palatable for the narrowly divided House and President Joe Biden. They largely succeeded.

Environmental Provisions in the Bill

The more than 3,000-page conference report ultimately “is much improved” from the House version that passed mostly along party lines, said Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, which has jurisdiction over most of the Pentagon’s climate and energy policies. He said Thursday that language in the House-passed bill that sought to limit the Pentagon’s climate actions had been largely “addressed.”

Disappointment and Omissions

Indeed, several lawmakers grumbled this week about environmental provisions they had championed that failed to make it into the final bill. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is preventing quick passage of the NDAA because the final version leaves out an amendment to address the Cold War’s environmental and health legacy. Negotiators similarly omitted the bipartisan “Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for clean energy (ADVANCE) Act,” S. 1111, that would have supercharged the deployment of next-generation nuclear reactors. A bipartisan proposal to shorten environmental reviews for chip fabrication plants was also dropped.

Nuclear Energy in the NDAA

Bipartisan efforts to supercharge the domestic nuclear industry stand to benefit from the inclusion of the “Nuclear Fuel Security Act,” S. 452, in the NDAA — but suffered a major blow with the exclusion of the ADVANCE Act. The proposal would establish a Nuclear Fuel Security Program to boost domestic uranium mining, production, and enrichment for the types of nuclear fuel used in today’s reactors and upcoming advanced reactors.

Hope for the Future of Nuclear Energy

Still, there’s some hope among leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the disagreements between them and the E&C leaders could be resolved sometime next year. The House panel this week approved a nuclear package dubbed the “Atomic Energy Advancement Act,” H.R. 6544, that mirrors much of the “ADVANCE Act.”

Electric Vehicles in the NDAA

Electric vehicles were among the most contentious issues in House Armed Services debates last summer over the DOD’s clean energy programs. One rider in the conference report would require the Pentagon to ensure military installations have enough EV chargers for the EVs they plan to use there before purchasing those vehicles. The bill leaves out a proposal to study the EV supply chain, much of which is controlled by China.

Securing Supply Chains for Critical Minerals

Congress’ bipartisan support for securing supply chains for critical minerals is evident throughout the NDAA. The bill would require the federal government to develop a strategy to achieve “critical mineral independence” from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea while establishing a new university-affiliated research center to study issues around accessing and commercializing critical minerals. It would also authorize the Pentagon to replenish the national mineral stockpile with domestically processed minerals.

Read More of this Story at – 2023-12-08 11:27:00

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