Jul 28, 2023, 7:09am EDT

What’s in and out of the Senate’s big defense bill


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The News

The Senate wrapped up work on their version of the mammoth annual defense policy bill, the NDAA, late Thursday, passing it in a bipartisan vote. Here’s a rundown of some of the more interesting items that did (and didn’t) get hitched to the bill in the upper chamber. It will all need to be reconciled with the House, which passed its own bill in a partisan vote after adding provisions on hot-button issues like transgender healthcare, abortion, and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.

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Oversight of U.S. assistance to Ukraine won’t get another boost, after the Senate defeated an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. that would have added Ukraine to the portfolio of the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. Another amendment from Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. that would have established a new inspector general office to oversee Ukraine assistance also failed, albeit more narrowly.

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The Senate easily approved an amendment that would require companies to disclose investments in national security sectors in China and other “countries of concern,” as well as another that would require the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to scrutinize foreign purchases of U.S. businesses in the agriculture or biotechnology sectors.

An amendment from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. — a presidential candidate — would require the Treasury Department to report on gifts or grants to U.S. colleges and universities by Chinese companies on a department sanctions list.

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Senators expect to work toward more comprehensive legislation regulating artificial intelligence in the fall, but a few initial provisions were added to the defense bill as part of a “manager’s amendment.” As told by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they would boost reporting on the use of AI in the financial services industry and set up a program to track down vulnerabilities in AI systems used by the Pentagon.

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The White House singled out some of its concerns with the bipartisan bill in a statement Thursday afternoon, without threatening a veto. The administration objected to provisions affecting the Pentagon’s diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, including those that would temporarily freeze hiring for these positions and limit the pay scale of DEI employees (pieces that were included in the bill before it hit the Senate floor).