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NDAA defense funding in limbo as senators call to roll back vaccine mandate

Sen. Rand Paul and others have pledged to block the NDAA, unless the Defense Department vaccination requirement for troops is removed.

WASHINGTON — The $847 billion 2023 National Defense Authorization Act could be in jeopardy.

A group of Senate Republicans led by Kentucky's Rand Paul have argued for months that the Department of Defense's vaccine mandate for the military is an example of government overreach.       

They're opposing the NDAA unless the Senate votes on an amendment to prohibit discharges from the Armed Forces based on COVID-19 vaccination status.

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrat Adam Smith of Washington, said over the weekend that a rollback of the policy is on the table.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has insisted the COVID-19 vaccination mandate is a "lawful order."

National security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that President Joe Biden continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, "should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19." 

The NDAA sets all U.S. military policy for the coming fiscal year and has been approved by Congress for 60 consecutive years.

It has a big impact on Hampton Roads. Versions of the bill passed in both chambers earlier this year would fully fund the Ford carrier program, aircraft carrier re-fuelings and mid-life overhauls, and Virginia and Columbia class submarine programs; all of which would be performed at Newport News Shipbuilding.   

The NDAA would also increase pay for military members by 4.6%, the largest hike in more than 20 years.

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