NORFOLK, Va. — The National Defense Authorization Act is the single most important piece of military policy legislation every year.
The current bill has passed the House but is bogged down in the Senate, where it faces nearly 800 amendments.
The Senate has adjourned until Nov. 29, meaning there won't be any action until at least then on the 2022 NDAA.
The House of Representatives in late September passed its version of the NDAA on a bipartisan 316-113 vote.
That version of the bill saves three guided-missile cruisers and increases from two to three per year the number of Virginia class submarines to be built in part at Newport News Shipbuilding. It calls for building one more guided-missile destroyer, an additional amphibious assault ship and an oiler.
"We've had 60-plus years in a row where the NDAA has passed," said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District), who serves as the Ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. "We can't let this be the year when that doesn't happen."
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia, 3rd District) said: "I would hope they'd figure out how to get through all those amendments quickly so we can get the bill in place."
Members of the Hampton Roads Congressional delegation told the Hampton Roads Chamber on Monday that the bill is vital.
"I think you'll find unanimous opinion about the need for 355 Naval ships and keeping on track for that," said Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Virginia, 4th District). "So that's the most important thing you can do, not only for this region but actually for the security of this nation."
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Virginia, 2nd District) serves as Vice-Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
"The bill that passed the House, we're building more ships, we're speeding up construction of Virginia Class submarines, and we're really focusing on what is necessary as far as our national defense with regards to China," she said. "So, I want to make sure the Senate preserves those elements of the House bill as we get it across the finish line."
The NDAA, as passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, also incorporates language to reform the way the military prosecutes sex crimes.
It would take that responsibility away from unit commanders and direct it to independent military special victims lawyers.