Just the Facts

Five Facts on the National Defense Authorization Act

By No Labels
July 1, 2019 | Blog

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is passed annually as a crucial part of setting the annual military budget.

The NDAA is one part of finalizing the annual military budget. The other crucial part is the Defense Appropriations Act. Prior to 1961, authorization was not needed for defense appropriations. But since the law change in 1961, the NDAA has passed every year without fail. The NDAA is passed annually, conventionally with bipartisan support[1].

The NDAA authorizes levels of defense spending for the following fiscal year.

The NDAA does not set the actual budget for the Department of Defense, but rather it authorizes policies for the Pentagon on how to spend the money it receives. The bill can establish or continue defense programs, policies, projects, and activities at the Department of Defense. It provides guidance on how to carry out authorized activities with the appropriated funds[2].

The House and the Senate produce separate legislative vehicles, and the Senate version can be proposed as an amendment to the House bill.

The House and the Senate each produce a version of the NDAA. They are produced and amended separately. The Senate alternative can be proposed as an amendment to the House bill, but must be approved by the House. The respective Armed Services Committees for each chamber produce a report to accompany their version of the bill. The report provides rationale behind their decisions and further guidance for government agencies regarding the authorizations. The reports are not amended during the floor proceedings[3].

This year, the House and Senate are considering amendments to the FY2020 NDAA to restrict the President’s ability to use military force against Iran.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) proposed an amendment on the Senate version of the NDAA that would require congressional approval before the President could use military funds for force in Iran[4]. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) proposed a similar amendment on the House version that would prohibit funding for military action against Iran unless Congress declares war or enacts statutory authorization[5].

The Senate rejected the amendment to prohibit military action against Iran without authorization from Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to postpone a vote on the amendment to Friday 6/28, to allow the several Senators running for president to attend the vote[6]. The amendment was voted down 50-40 on Friday, failing to reach the 60 votes needed for adoption. 10 Senators had left town for recess and did not vote. The overall defense bill, without the amendment, passed 86-8 on Thursday[7].


[1] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/98-756.pdf

[2] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IF10516.pdf

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/26/senate-vote-debate-iran-1383320

[5] https://thehill.com/policy/defense/450199-bipartisan-congressmen-unveil-amendment-to-block-iran-strike-without

[6] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/26/senate-vote-debate-iran-1383320

[7] https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/senate-rejects-efforts-limit-war-iran

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