Senate NDAA draft includes study of budgeting process, other tech provisions

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The Senate draft version of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act could be the start of the Department of Defense and Congress rethinking the defense budgeting process, a system that advocates for tech modernization have long said inhibits the DOD’s ability to be agile.

A summary published by the Senate Armed Services Committee includes a provision that would establish a commission to study the planning, programming, budget and execution process that forces acquisition programs to wait years before getting full funding from Congress. The budgeting process was created in the 1950s to ensure proper accounting for major industrial projects like buying tanks, but inhibits the kind of rapid iteration needed when buying software, experts have said.

“The FY22 National Defense Authorization Act will help safeguard the nation, counter a range of evolving threats, and support our troops both on and off the battlefield.”

“[I]t prioritizes programs and policies to strengthen our cyber defenses, improve readiness, and accelerate research and development of advanced technologies that will give our forces strategic advantages,” committee chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said in a statement.

The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law, including passing both the full Senate and House, but the powerful defense committee often gets many provisions enacted into law.

Other new provisions in the summary include several reports the secretary of defense would be required to submit to Congress, including one on DOD’s contractor compliance regime the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), new augmented reality headset technology and DOD’s use of commercial autonomous capabilities.

The bill would also match several requests the DOD has for Congress, including increased funding for research and development and “full funding” for U.S. Cyber Command. On top of more money for research and development, it would give new hiring authorities to the DOD to retain technical talent in labs. The bill would also create a “civilian cybersecurity reserve” within Cyber Command.

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2022 budget, Department of Defense (DOD), NDAA
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