In November, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress that the U.S. would reach its debt limit on December 15. But Republicans in the Senate are refusing to vote for lifting the debt ceiling at a time when Democrats are passing big spending bills. With the Senate evenly split 50-50, a deal is needed to allow the Senate to pass a bill temporarily raising the debt ceiling with only Democratic votes.
This week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) struck a deal that would allow the Senate to bypass the filibuster and vote on lifting the debt ceiling. First the Senate needed to pass S. 610, a bill that would allow the Senate to pass a debt limit increase with a simple majority vote. That bill passed by a vote of 59 to 35. S. 610 passed the House earlier this week by a vote of 222 to 212. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) joined all Democrats in voting for the measure.
Next, they will take up a measure to raise the debt ceiling. The new debt ceiling is expected to exceed $30T (currently set at $28.9T) to ensure Congress won’t need to act again until after the midterm elections in November 2022.
National Defense Authorization Act
The Senate tried to consider their FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week but the process stalled when Sen. Rubio (R-FL) blocked an amendment deal after he failed to get his amendment to ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region in the package that would get votes before a final vote in the Senate. The amendment wasn’t included in the package because it violated a clause in the Constitution that stipulates that bills that raise revenue have to originate in the House.
The House passed their FY22 NDAA on September 23. Rather than wait for the Senate to pass their bill and then conference it with the House bill; House, Senate, and Armed Services Committee leaders decided to move forward with a conferenced version of the bill. The House passed S. 1605 on Tuesday by a vote of 363 to 70. The $768B defense policy bill now heads to the Senate where it’s expected to advance fairly easily next week before heading to the President for his signature.
Text of Joint Explanatory Statement
Build Back Better Act
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said yesterday that Democrat’s top legislative priority – the Build Back Better (BBB) Act – will pass before Christmas. However, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has made it clear that he is in no rush to vote for the package.
Five Senate committees released their respective pieces of the reconciliation package this week, and the Congressional Budget Office released cost estimates for four of those pieces.
Title IX – Committee on Indian Affairs
DOD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Officer (CDAO)
DOD Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks issued a memo yesterday announcing the establishment of the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO) effective February 1, 2022. The CDAO will report directly to Deputy Secretary Hicks and will serve as the department’s senior official responsible for strengthening and integrating data, artificial intelligence, and digital solutions in the Department.
While the Pentagon already has a chief data officer, a Defense Digital Service and the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, this new position is needed to integrate all these efforts. It was one of the recommendations of the National Security Commission on AI.
The goal is for the CDAO to reach full operating capability no later than June 1, 2022.
National Defense Strategy
Colin Kahl, DOD Undersecretary for Policy, said yesterday that a new National Defense Strategy (NDS) is expected to be released early next year along with the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review. The NDS itself is under the National Security Strategy, which will come out first. The current National Defense Strategy is from 2018. The White House released an interim National Security Strategy in March and approved the classified Global Posture Review on November 29.
GAO Issues Report on Defense Contractor Cybersecurity
This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report, Defense Contractor Cybersecurity: Stakeholder Communication and Performance Goals Could Improve Certification Framework, which reviewed DOD’s implementation of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). The report focused on what steps DOD took to develop CMMC, the extent to which DOD made progress in implementing CMMC (including communication with industry), and the extent to which DOD has developed plans to assess the effectiveness of CMMC.
GAO issued three recommendations that DOD concurred with and outlined plans to address them in CMMC 2.0:
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment provides sufficient and timely communication to industry on Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, including when additional information will be forthcoming.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment develops a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification’s pilot, including establishing measurable objectives, collecting relevant data, and identifying lessons and plans to use that information to inform future decisions about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment develop outcome-oriented performance measures to evaluate the effectiveness of Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification as a component of the department’s efforts to enhance cybersecurity for the defense industrial base.
Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors
- For existing contracts or contract-like instruments (hereinafter “contracts”) that contain a clause implementing requirements of Executive Order 14042: The Government will take no action to enforce the clause implementing requirements of Executive Order 14042, absent further written notice from the agency, where the place of performance identified in the contract is in a U.S. state or outlying area subject to a court order prohibiting the application of requirements pursuant to the Executive Order (hereinafter, “Excluded State or Outlying Area”). In all other circumstances, the Government will enforce the clause, except for contractor employees who perform substantial work on or in connection with a covered contract in an Excluded State or Outlying Area, or in a covered contractor workplace located in an Excluded State or Outlying Area.
- Currently Excluded States and Outlying Areas: All of the United States and its outlying areas, including:
- The fifty States;
- The District of Columbia;
- The commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands;
- The territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands; and
- The minor outlying islands of Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Atoll.
- NOTE: Federal agency COVID-19 workplace safety protocols for Federal buildings and Federally controlled facilities still apply in all locations. Contractor employees working onsite in those buildings and facilities must still follow Federal agency workplace safety protocols when working onsite.