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Senate and House to negotiate military spending budget this week with several diversity initiatives gutted

Democrat and Republican lawmakers will hash out the next fiscal year’s military spending budget, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), during this week’s formal House-Senate conference. 

The ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., managed to score a victory before Congress broke for Thanksgiving recess to get the conference scheduled. A Wicker aide previously told Fox News Digital that if the conference process hadn’t started before the recess, “it wouldn’t have happened this year” due to other priorities. The chambers will convene on Wednesday, according to the Senate schedule.

According to a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) aide, top negotiators for the NDAA include Wicker, SASC Chairman Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., House Committee on Armed Services (HASC) Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and SASC ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash.

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In a statement provided to Fox News Digital, which was first reported by Punchbowl, Wicker said Monday, “There are a number of things that need to be fixed” in the NDAA.

“But things are moving,” he added. 

The Senate approved its version of the annual military defense bill with bipartisan support in July in an 86-11 vote, granting authorization for $886 billion over the next year to bolster national defense, right before the chamber’s five-week August recess.

Notably, in the Senate’s version, military personnel will see a 5.2% pay increase, and it includes $9.1 billion to foster competitiveness with China, investments in advancing military drone technology, and $300 million in aid to Ukraine.

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The Senate’s bill avoids addressing the issues of abortion and transgender services. However, it does acknowledge the concerns expressed by Republicans about what they call an excessive influence of progressive policies within the Pentagon.

As such, Senate Republicans were able to get provisions in the policy that prevent mandating the inclusion of preferred pronouns in official correspondence as well as a proposed hiring freeze on “new diversity, equity, and inclusion positions.”

“Military readiness depends on the guarantee of equal opportunity, without the promise of an equal outcome, because warfare is a competitive endeavor and the nation’s enemies must know that the United States Armed Forces is led by the best, brightest, and bravest Americans,” the bill text reads. “The tenets of critical race theory are antithetical to the merit-based, all-volunteer, military that has served the country with great distinction for the last 50 years.”

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Just two weeks prior to the Senate’s passage, the House approved its version of the bill, which incorporated several Republican amendments aimed at dismantling the Pentagon’s abortion policy for service members seeking procedures out of state as well as restricting transgender-affirming treatments.

President Biden has previously indicated he would not sign a package filled with hardline GOP priorities like what’s included in the House’s version.

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