TALLINN, July 28 (LETA--ERR) - With a bipartisan majority, the U.S. Senate passed its own version of a key 2024 defense spending bill on Thursday night which included a boost to initiative funding for ongoing security cooperation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania next year, rounding the total up to USD 228 million — or nearly EUR 208 million.
The Senate bill, passed with a bipartisan 86-11 vote, "provides USD 228 million, a USD 20 million increase above the president's budget request, for the Baltic Security Initiative to support ongoing security cooperation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania," the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations noted their announcement.
The Senate Armed Services Committee noted "the significant contributions the nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have made as members of NATO and as leading contributors to the international coalition supporting Ukraine in response to the Russian Federation's illegal and unprovoked war," according to the committee report regarding the Senate bill.
"As the Department of Defense assesses security cooperation programming in fiscal year 2024, the committee expects continued attention to be paid to those countries most directly affected by the ongoing security threats on Europe's eastern flank posed by Russian aggression," it continued. "In addition, priority should be given, as appropriate, to countries in need of assistance in backfilling military capabilities provided to Ukraine."
At the committee's recommendation, the Senate bill included a provision requiring the secretary of defense, in consultation with the secretary of state, to provide a report to the congressional defense committees within 180 days of the bill being adopted into law on progress made in the implementation of the multi-year security cooperation strategy and spending plan provided in a June 2021 report on the Baltic Security Initiative.
Under the Senate bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides for a record USD 831.781 billion (EUR 755.311 billion) defense budget for the 2024 fiscal year, covering spending on a range of key areas and efforts ranging from global readiness and deterrence efforts in several parts of the globe, new and upgrades to existing aircraft, ships and submarines, and infrastructure to medical research, science and technology as well as pay raises for service members and other social supports for them and their families.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed its own version of the 2024 defense bill with an overwhelmingly partisan 219-210 vote, the Associated Press reported.
While the package had nearly unanimous support coming out of the House Armed Services Committee, Democrats dropped their support of the updated bill, which "strays from traditional military policy with Republican add-ons blocking abortion coverage, diversity initiatives at the Pentagon and transgender care that deeply divided the chamber."
Before being signed into law by US President Joe Biden, the two Congressional chambers' versions of the bill must first be reconciled in the fall.
Previously, the U.S. approved USD 225 million in support for Baltic security for the current fiscal year, up from USD 150 million in 2022.