House-approved $883B defense bill included changes from Utah Reps. Curtis, Moore

An F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander performs a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden on March 19. The House passed the $883.7 billion annual defense policy bill earlier this week, largely along party lines.

An F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team commander performs a demonstration flight at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden on March 19. The House passed the $883.7 billion annual defense policy bill earlier this week, largely along party lines. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The House passed the $883.7 billion annual defense policy bill in a 217-199 vote earlier this week, largely along party lines. Three Republicans opposed it, while six Democrats voted in favor of it.

The National Defense Authorization Act issues policies and guidelines for the Pentagon. The fiscal year 2025's package includes Republican-favored policies such as banning the coverage of health care expenses related to out-of-state abortions for U.S. service members. Other provisions attached to the National Defense Authorization Act strip out diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives across the armed services, as well as the descriptions of sex and gender from the school funded by the Defense Department, as The Washington Post reported.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, proposed two amendments that made it into the House GOP-passed package.

The first prohibits the Department of Defense from purchasing goods and services from companies that boycott Israel, to send a message that the U.S. will stand by its longtime ally.

"I am pleased that my colleagues in the House supported my amendments aimed at addressing Iran's military capabilities and safeguarding our allies from radical organizations," said Curtis, who represents Utah's 3rd District. "It is essential that our military does not sell products from companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement."

The National Defense Authorization Act also has provisions to strengthen military capabilities, like funding hypersonic missiles and artificial intelligence, and continuing to support Israel's Iron Dome and other defense capabilities.

The fiscal year 2025 proposal features some benefits for service members. This includes a 19.5% pay raise for junior enlisted members and 4.5% for all other ranks and the allocation of $204 million in child care support.

The White House, in response to the pay raise, said, "The administration is strongly committed to taking care of our service members and their families and appreciates the committee's concern for the needs of the most junior enlisted members but strongly opposes making a significant, permanent change to the basic pay schedule before the completion of the Fourteenth Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation." This review is scheduled to be finished by January 2025.

Other measures have also received pushback and are unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, including the provisions around abortion, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and transgender rights.

"Last year, we were in great position until the Senate whacked it basically," Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., a former Navy pilot and member of the House Appropriations Committee, told the Washington Examiner. "And frankly, from the House side, we didn't do a good enough job of protecting it in the (National Defense Authorization Act)."

Other Utah members of Congress — Reps. Blake Moore, Celeste Maloy and Burgess Owens — also voted in support of the National Defense Authorization Act.

"As the member of Congress representing Hill Air Force Base and the northern Utah defense community, I was grateful to vote for H.R. 8070, the Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2025," said Moore, who represents Utah's 1st District. "This bill supports our defense efforts while saving taxpayers $30 billion by cutting inefficient programs, obsolete weapons systems, and unnecessary bureaucracy at the Pentagon."

He said he secured wins that benefit service members and worked with the House Armed Services Committee to require the comptroller general "to explore alternative methods for locality pay calculations" and the Defense Department "to produce a comprehensive plan for U.S. depots and military industrial facilities like the Ogden Air Logistics Complex and add safer construction standards for new housing projects on military bases."

The National Defense Authorization Act also fully funds the ambitious Sentinel program that is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles. This will "bring nearly 4,000 jobs to northern Utah and ensure a reliable ground-based nuclear deterrent long into the future," Moore, the vice chairman of the Republican Conference, said.

He secured another $78 million for two military construction projects: The F-35 East Campus infrastructure, meant to support F-35 maintenance, repair and training facilities, will receive $28 million, and $50 million will be put toward a T-7A Depot Maintenance Complex.

Moore's proposed Retain Skilled Veterans Act, which will remove the 180-day waiting period for veterans to work at the Department of Defense, was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

On the provision on abortion, Moore said, "Consistent with my pro-life and pro-family values, I supported an amendment prohibiting the secretary of Defense from using taxpayer dollars to pay for or reimburse expenses related to abortion services, reinstating a longstanding policy the Biden administration violated."

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Gitanjali Poonia
Gitanjali Poonia is an early career journalist who writes about politics, culture and climate change. Driven by her upbringing in New Delhi, India, she takes pride in reporting on underserved and under-covered communities. She holds a bachelor’s in electronic media from San Francisco State University and a master’s in journalism from Columbia Journalism School.


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