By Congressman Jim Banks
Last July, House Republicans approved the single most conservative defense bill ever to pass a chamber of Congress: our version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024—the FY24 NDAA for short.
Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a much weaker version of the NDAA. House and Senate leaders then negotiated a compromise version and sent it back to both chambers for final approval.
Many of the best provisions in the House version of the NDAA were stripped out during negotiations with the Senate.
To name a few:
- Rep. Ronny Jackson’s amendment to prevent the Biden Department of Defense (DOD) from paying for employees’ abortion travel;
- my provision banning racial discrimination in military academy admissions; and
- a ban on taxpayer-funded transgender surgeries for servicemembers did not make it into the final bill.
Some of my Republican colleagues voted against the final NDAA. They pointed to the absence of key conservative planks like these to explain their votes.
I agree that the final NDAA fell short of the House’s NDAA—some of the best provisions that I wrote didn’t make it in the compromise version—but in the end, I voted yes for two reasons.
First, I won’t vote against a bill because of what’s not in it. Like all members of Congress, once a bill makes it to the floor, I only have three options: I can vote yes, I can vote no, or I can abstain.
I won’t vote against legislation if I think it will help America. So if I agree with what a bill does overall, I will vote for it even if I think it could be improved.
Second, the FY24 NDAA advances the conservative agenda.
It not only gives servicemembers their largest pay raise in two decades and reorients the Pentagon toward competition with Communist China, but it also rolls back Joe Biden’s dangerous—and anti-American—efforts to politicize the military.
Under this administration, the DOD sets racial quotas disguised as “performance goals” for recruiting and promotions.
For example, a 2022 Air Force memo set the following quotas for its officer applicant pool: 15 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian, 67 percent white, 36 percent female, etc.
This is blatant discrimination, un-American, and, unfortunately, one of the Democratic Party’s top priorities.
I had included a crucial provision in the House NDAA that banned race-based preferences in recruiting, ended quotas, and required merit-based accessions, assignments, selections, and promotions.
During final negotiations, Democrats removed the language banning racial quotas at DOD.
But the final bill still requires all military accessions and promotions to be based on “individual merit and demonstrated performance.”
Even though the final bill lacked my stronger language, the FY24 NDAA is an important first step to restore meritocracy in our military.
The House version of the NDAA had eliminated the Chief Diversity Officer position at the Pentagon.
The compromise version didn’t, but it capped diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) employees’ pay at the GS-10 level, which is less than half of what many of these overpaid left-wing bureaucrats make right now.
Many of them would rather get a new job than take a 50 percent pay cut, and I’ll be glad when they do.
The NDAA also freezes hiring of all new DEI employees at DOD until Congress receives a detailed accounting on the military’s DEI practices.
2021 was the single worst recruiting year in the history of the all-volunteer force.
So, in 2022, I was shocked to learn that the U.S. Navy had hired a drag queen to help recruiting by posting explicit videos to social media. The FY24 NDAA included my provision ending that program.
Several military bases have hosted drag shows, but no longer—they’re now banned thanks to the FY24 NDAA.
The bill also
- banned the public display of pride flags on DOD property;
- forced the DOD to provide pathways for the reinstatement of troops discharged over Biden’s partisan Covid vaccine mandate;
- established higher Army fitness standards for combat units; and
- banned DOD from contracting with pro-censorship groups.
To top it off, the NDAA banned Critical Race Theory at military academies, in military training, and in professional military education.
No federal law has ever banned Critical Race Theory. That means that when Joe Biden signed this year’s NDAA, he became the first president in American history to sign a Critical Race Theory ban.
It’s the best thing to come out of his failed presidency, and frankly, it’s stunning that Joe Biden signed it into law.
That said, the FY24 NDAA wasn’t a perfect bill. It fell short of the original version that House Republicans passed.
As the Chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, eliminating left-wing partisanship in our military is my mission for this Congress.
We’re one year in, and House Republicans still have a lot of work to do. The FY24 NDAA didn’t finish the job, but it did take a historic step in the right direction.