defense dealings

House to begin consideration of 2024 defense policy bill

Around 20 Middle East policy amendments are set to be considered on the House floor in the coming days

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Committee chairman Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) listens during a meeting of the House Rules Committee to consider H.R. 3746 - Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 at the U.S. Capitol May 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The House will begin debate on Wednesday on the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act and some of the 1,500 amendments to the bill filed by lawmakers. Around 20 of the amendments set to be considered are germane to Israel and Iran policy.

Late Tuesday evening, the House Rules Committee took a procedural vote allowing the bill, and nearly 300 proposed amendments, to proceed to the House floor. However, further procedural steps will be needed before final passage of the bill, as Freedom Caucus-aligned conservatives spar with House leadership over whether to include hot-button social issues in the defense policy bill. Further amendments could be subsequently cleared for consideration.

Amendments up for debate on the floor include a provision accelerating the delivery of KC-46 refueling aircraft to Israel, expediting training for Israeli pilots and positioning U.S.-owned KC-46s in Israel in the interim, as well as one providing the president authority to transfer retired U.S. tankers to Israel in case of an emergency.

Airborne tankers are seen as critical to a potential Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Another amendment would extend the authorization for the U.S. to maintain a weapons stockpile in Israel — to be provided to Israel in an emergency — through 2028, as well as require an assessment of Israel’s precision guided munitions needs.

Proposed amendments would also reaffirm U.S. support for Israel and continued security assistance for Israel and express support for U.S.-Israeli cooperation in the space arena.

Other amendments would prohibit the sale of petroleum from the U.S.’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Iran and ban funding to the Iranian government or its affiliates.

A slew of amendments would require the Defense Department to report to Congress on a host of issues including Chinese security cooperation with Iran, the status of U.S.-Israeli efforts to respond to Iranian drone threats, the Iranian threat to U.S. and partner military bases, efforts to expand military exercises between Israel and other Middle East partners, nuclear cooperation between Iran and Russia, Iranian military cooperation with South American nations, the threat from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the European Union, Iranian’s ballistic missile capabilities and Iran’s involvement in the drug trade.

Separately on Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee released the full text of its version of the 2024 NDAA, which is expected to come to the Senate floor next week.

The bill proposes an additional $25 million for U.S.-Israel directed energy defensive weapons and $25 million for cooperation in emerging technologies (below the $50 million supported by the House Armed Services Committee and some Senate lawmakers).

It also extends the Israel stockpile authority and commissions an assessment of Israel’s precision guided missile needs.

The accompanying explanatory report asserts that, “the Committee also supports actions of the United States in conjunction with Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including by recognizing and supporting the freedom of action of Israel.”

It urges the Defense Department to work to integrate Morocco into military exercises with other Abraham Accords nations. It also requests a study of federal cyber attack response procedures in light of Iran’s cyberattack on Albania last year and a briefing on Iranian collaboration with Russia.

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