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Panel adds $45B to FY '23 National Defense bill

The Senate Armed Services Committee's version of NDAA would preserve USS Vicksburg, and enhance last year's military justice reforms.

WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee, on a bipartisan 23-3 vote, this week approved its version of the $847 billion Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

The panel added $45 billion to the Biden administration's original request.

Committee member Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said changing world events necessitated adding in more money.

"The submission of the budget early in the year, we need to look at the reality of the war in Ukraine and also the reality of inflation," he said.

The committee's version of the NDAA would halt the Navy's plans to retire 12 ships, half of the 24 the service proposed decommissioning in its budget request.

Included in the list of vessels that would be spared is the Norfolk-based guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg, which is nearly finished with a $500 million modernization overhaul at BAE Systems Ship Repair.

The bill fully funds the Ford-class carrier program, aircraft carrier refueling and complex overhauls, and Virginia-class and Columbia-class submarine programs. It also guarantees a minimum of 31 operational amphibious warfare ships for the Navy and Marine Corps, even though the Navy sought to reduce the number to 24.

Additionally, the bill makes modifications to last year's military justice reforms, directing the Secretary of Defense to collect comprehensive data on the causes of sexual assault, harassment, and domestic violence in the military.

"We feel like we have even more of an obligation within the military to tackle this because somebody who has volunteered to sacrifice and serve their country should not be faced with any kind of discrimination or harassment and particularly, no kind of sexual assault or improper activity," said Kaine.

The House Armed Services Committee still needs to put forward its version of the NDAA, which is expected to take place next week.

And this note:

A provision in the Senate version of the NDAA would require young women to register for the Selective Service, in the event that the military ever returns to the draft.

Numerous Republican lawmakers are expressing opposition to that idea.

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