Defense panel bucks Biden on topline military budget

The House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment that would increase defense spending by $24 billion over the requested amount to about $770 billion.

House Armed Services Committee meeting room photo credit Katherine Welles/

Photo credit: Katherine Welles/

A House panel has cleared a key hurdle to passing the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act by adopting an amendment that would increase defense spending $24 billion over the Biden administration's budget request.

The House Armed Services Committee's Ranking Member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) introduced an amendment targeting unfunded military requirements that would lift the topline to match the Senate's proposal, raising total defense spending to nearly $770 billion.

The amendment passed, 42-17, with key Democratic support during the Sept. 1 markup session.

Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) opposed the amendment because he said he believes the Defense Department needs to "spend its money wisely." Simply spending more "does not make us safer."

"Do a better job of acquisition and procurement, do a better job of anticipating what the threats are now," Smith said. "If we give them another $23.9 billion, it takes the pressure off. It makes it easier for them to keep doing what they've been doing. And that I think is the larger problem."

But the amendment, prompted by concerns mostly from Republicans that defense spending hasn't kept pace with inflation, garnered significant support from Democrats.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who co-chaired the Future of Defense Task Force, stressed that while DOD needed to be more fiscally judicious, debate of the overall bill's substance was needed to get there.

"To be frank, I'm torn because I think there is a lot of wasteful spending in the underlying bill that should be cut because it's spent on old capabilities we don't need. At the same time this amendment includes some of the capabilities that we do need," Moulton said.

"Taken overall though, if we were effective at spending our money more wisely, we probably could cut the national defense budget significantly. China is beating us at our own game because they're spending their money more effectively and that's the true challenge of this committee."

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), who sits on the Seapower and Projection Forces and Tactical Air & Land Forces Subcommittees, said he would back the amendment, noting that while its support of technology advancements was welcome, it lacked funding for service members' quality of life and family support.

"We are an expeditionary force, it's an expensive force. We take care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and guardians and it isn't cheap," said Brown, adding that he would support this bill plus the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act and the administration's infrastructure bill.

"If we can fund $25 billion more for torpedoes, technology, et cetera, we should certainly be able to carve out enough for the quality of life issues," Brown said.