Congress’ Final Defense Bill Cracks Down On Pentagon DEI Bureaucracy

A compromise version of Congress’ annual defense bill unveiled late Wednesday freezes hiring for the Pentagon’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracy and temporarily caps salaries of DEI administrators.

The House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024 would have eliminated all DEI positions from the Department of Defense (DOD), but the conference settled for the Senate’s version that bans the DOD from creating or filling new DEI postings until the Pentagon submits an investigation of DEI workforce to Congress, according to the bill report. Republicans chalked up the provision as hard-fought win with the Democrat-controlled Senate and could help House Speaker Mike Johnson convince more hardline Republicans to go along with the $886 billion bill.

“House Republicans fought hard to gut Biden’s DEI bureaucracy at the Department of Defense,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told the Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. Rogers touted the House GOP’s efforts to restore the military’s focus “on capability and lethality instead of Biden’s far-left political priorities.”

The bill also cuts base pay for civilian DEI employees and caps salaries at $70,000 a year.

The House version contained a provision requiring an assessment to validate each civilian appointment in the Pentagon’s DEI office. The Senate’s version did not, and the House gave up the provision in the final bill while noting “the Comptroller General of the United States is required to perform a comprehensive review of the Department of Defense DEI workforce.”

House Republicans previously introduced provisions aimed at gutting the DEI agenda from the military in the draft NDAA 2024, which ultimately moved forward by a narrow margin. These involved putting a cap on salaries for DEI personnel, banning training or educational materials promoting Critical Race Theory, prohibiting federal funding of drag queen story hours, sunsetting the Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, defunding the Counter-Extremism Working Group and eliminating the DOD’s chief diversity officer position.

The Senate will conduct a procedural vote on the bill as soon as Thursday, according to Politico. The House will take up the bill next under a rule suspension that requires only a two-thirds majority vote, expediting its passage through the chamber.

It’s likely to pass through both chambers with bipartisan support as Congress is crunched to produce a full-year budget and accompanying appropriations bills and avert a government shutdown.

Micaela Burrow on December 7, 2023

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