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US House panel backs more defence money, but major hurdles remain

The US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has voted to add USD25 billion or 3.5% to the Biden administration's fiscal year (FY) 2022 defence budget request, saying the military needs more resources to keep pace with China and Russia.

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

The proposed increase, which the HASC approved during its 1–2 September deliberations on the FY 2022 defence authorisation bill, is spread across several categories, including procurement, research and development, and operation and maintenance. It is similar to the spending boost that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) endorsed in its version of the bill in July.

“I hope this bipartisan, and now bicameral, move is understood by the Biden-Harris administration,” said Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the HASC's top Republican. “The defence of our nation will not be shortchanged by Congress.”

However, the proposed hike must clear several major hurdles before becoming law, including passage by the full House and Senate. Some Democrats asserted that the US Department of Defense (DoD) should receive less funding, not more, to free up money for other departments, including those that handle cyber security.

“Increasing the Pentagon's budget to help pay for the second homes of defence contractors is not the way to solve America's most pressing security threats,” said Representative Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat and chair emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Moreover, the House Committee on Appropriations did not provide such an increase in the FY 2022 defence appropriations bill that it passed in July. When it comes to funding levels, the appropriations bill generally carries more weight than the policy-focused authorisation bill. The Senate Committee on Appropriations has not yet taken up its version of the FY 2022 defence appropriations bill.

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