Congress Passes Final Defense Bill with Romney Measures for National Security and Utah

Romney’s measures will protect against China and Russia, reaffirm Utah’s role in our national security, and improve passport services for Utahns

WASHINGTON—Congress has passed the bipartisan and bicameral conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (NDAA), annual legislation that authorizes funding levels and provides authorities for the U.S. military and other critical defense priorities, ensuring America’s forces have the training, equipment, and resources they need to carry out their missions. The conference report, which now heads to the President’s desk, authorizes a 5.2% pay raise for servicemembers—the largest raise in more than two decades. The report also includes measures from Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) aimed at protecting against threats from China and Russia and reaffirming the critical role Utah plays in our national security, as well provisions to improve access to passport services for Utahns.

“After months of negotiation by my colleagues on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, I am pleased we are able to get the final version of this year’s defense bill through the finish line,” Senator Romney said. “With the growing threats we face, it is paramount that our military has the resources, equipment, and capabilities it needs to keep our nation safe. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation strengthens our national security and supports our servicemembers at this critical time.”

“The annual defense bill includes provisions I fought for to protect the United States against growing threats from China and Russia by modernizing our nuclear triad, providing better understanding of the true extent of China’s defense-industrial complex, and bolstering our domestic critical mineral capabilities to reduce our dependence on adversaries,” Senator Romney continued. “It also includes measures which will bolster Utah’s role in our national defense and help address the current military recruitment crisis—which has real and immediate impacts on our national security—by enhancing military recruiter access to high school and college students. With the passage of this legislation, we are also one step closer to bringing a passport agency to Salt Lake City.”

Romney Measures Included in the NDAA:

Ending China’s Unfair International Advantages: Section 5413 of the NDAA is an updated version of Senator Romney’s Ending China’s Developing Nation Status Act and establishes that it is U.S. policy to oppose granting “developing nation” status to China in international organizations and future treaties. Directs the Administration to pursue changing the status of China to “developed nation” in existing international organizations. Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) led the companion legislation in the House.

“It is absolutely absurd that China continues to be treated as a developing nation on the global stage when it has the second largest economy in the world and is on track to surpass the United States in the coming decade,” Senator Romney said. “I’m proud that our legislation—which establishes U.S. policy to oppose labeling China as a ‘developing nation’ in international organizations and future treaties—has finally passed, and I appreciate the efforts of my House colleagues for helping to see it through.”

“The People’s Republic of China uses its developing country status to undermine the international rules-based order, receive a disproportionate share of aid from international treaties and organizations, and exploit developing countries through its debt diplomacy. We cannot sit idly by as the PRC – which has the second largest economy in the world – exercises undue influence on the global stage and carries out its economic coercion campaign on nations that are actually developing,” said Representative Kim. “The PRC is Not a Developing Country Act will help level the playing field and right this wrong. I am thrilled this is on its way across the finish line, and I will monitor its implementation closely. We must hold the PRC accountable and ensure American values lead the way in supporting developing countries around the world.”  

Improving Passport Services for Utahns: The NDAA includes several of the provisions authored by Senator Romney, and included in the Department of State Authorization Act of 2023, continuing his longstanding efforts to bring a passport agency to Salt Lake City and improve Utahns’ access to consular services. Specifically, Romney’s provisions on passport services in the NDAA would:            

  • Require quarterly reporting on the demand for urgent passport services, broken down by major metropolitan area, and the steps taken by the State Department to reduce and meet the demand for urgent passport services, particularly in areas that are more than a five-hour drive from the nearest passport agency.
  • Require the State Department to produce a strategy to ensure reasonable access to passport services for all Americans, including how to reduce passport processing times to an acceptable average for renewals and expedited service and provide U.S. residents living in a significant population center more than a five-hour drive from a passport agency with urgent, in-person passport services, including the possibility of building new passport agencies.
  • Require a prominent, clear advisory in passports to note that many countries deny entry to travelers during the last six months of their passport validity period and urging all travelers to renew their passport one year prior to its expiration.

Supporting Dugway Proving Ground:
 Section 1047 contains Senator Romney’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program Improvement Act, legislation to remove a statutory roadblock that prevents the U.S. Army from requesting funding for military construction projects related to chem-bio program facilities like those at Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground. Romney led the Utah delegation in introducing this legislation to help Dugway continue its vital work.

Bolstering the Sentinel Program and U.S Nuclear Deterrent: Section 1634 requires the Secretary of the Air Force to assess, within 120 days of enactment, whether new acquisition authorities, including multiyear procurement authority, could be used to ensure the Sentinel program stays on schedule. This reflects priorities endorsed by Romney’s Sentinel Nuclear Deterrence Act, which would authorize multiyear and advance procurement for the program. The committee report accompanying the Senate-passed NDAA in July also includes language requested by Romney to help stabilize key supply chains for the Sentinel program. 

Advancing U.S. Critical Mineral Independence from China: Section 1414 includes an updated version of Senator Romney’s Critical Mineral Independence Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation to push the Department of Defense to achieve critical mineral supply chain independence from China, Russia, and other competitors and adversaries.

Promoting Military Service: Sections 541 and 543 include a version of Senator Romney’s Military Service Promotion Act of 2023, bipartisan legislation that addresses the current military recruitment crisis by strengthening military recruiter access to high school and college students.

Exposing China’s Defense Spending: Section 1313 includes an updated version of Senator Romney’s China Defense Spending Transparency Act, bipartisan legislation requiring the Department of Defense to complete an unclassified, comprehensive analysis exposing the true extent of China’s defense-industrial build up.

Black Sea Security Act: Section 1247 of the bill includes a version of the Black Sea Security Act of 2023, legislation led by Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Romney to require the Administration to develop a strategy to strengthen coordination between the U.S., NATO, and partners in the Black Sea in an effort to increase security, support economic prosperity, and promote democracy.

American Security Drone Act: Sections 1821–1833 include an updated version of the American Security Drone Act, legislation led by Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and cosponsored by Senator Romney to prohibit government purchases of drones from China and other entities that pose a national security risk.

Other Utah Wins in the NDAA:

Support for Construction at Hill Air Force Base: The NDAA authorizes new military construction projects at Hill Air Force Base, including:

  • $82 million for the F-35 T-7A East Campus infrastructure project, which would support F-35 maintenance, repair, and training facilities, in addition to a T-7A Depot Maintenance Complex; and
  • $14.2 million for a new open storage area for the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Hill, Utah in support of F-35 depot maintenance and the LGM-35A Sentinel programs.

Support for the F-35 Program:
The NDAA authorizes $4.7 billion for new F-35A fighters for the Air Force.