U.S. Congress approved a $886.3 billion defense spending bill Thursday that authorizes a 5.2 percent pay raise for military service members and DOD civilian workforce—the largest raise in two decades, according to a release from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia.
“Despite all the current chaos in Congress, I’m encouraged that we were finally able to pass this annual defense spending bill that strengthens our military, provides support for our troops, bolsters our nation’s defense capabilities, and delivers for Virginia,” he said in a statement.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the defense bill into law.
It will improve living conditions for enlisted service members through replacement of substandard barracks and new requirements that enlisted housing meets the same basic standards as all other military housing, according to Warner’s release.
The bill will also improve living conditions for junior Navy Sailors whose vessels are undergoing extended maintenance, authorizing basic housing payments for service members to live in commercial housing, rather than aboard the ship.
The defense bill further includes Warner-led proposals of $3.5 million for design of new child development centers at Hampton Roads installations and $104 million to construct new childcare centers at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and Naval Station Norfolk.
The defense bill in addition includes a provision led by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, to crack down on fentanyl trafficking by transnational criminal organizations. She introduced the adopted measure requiring the CIA prepare an intelligence assessment of the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels.
The two Mexico-based transnational criminal organizations are responsible for producing and distributing the majority of synthetic drugs trafficked into the United States from Mexico, according to Spanberger. The assessment will examine production methods, suppliers, cross-border trafficking routes, leadership, and additional operations of the two cartels.
Also approved in the defense bill is $570 million for 20 military construction projects in Virginia, including $20 million for a replacement hanger and additional airfield infrastructure in Sandston for the Virginia National Guard, and $4 million in planning and design funding for a new Army Reserve training center in Richmond.
Warner said the defense bill increases transparency surrounding DoD investments in Artificial Intelligence by requiring they provide information to Congress by mid-June of 2024 detailing the applications of AI technologies and their respective investment amounts, and an analysis of how these investments align with the Department’s stated objectives regarding AI.
The defense bill prohibits the purchase of drones from countries like China that pose a national security concern, a provision championed by Warner, and underscores U.S. commitment to NATO.
The defense bill authorizes $300 million in continued American support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.