As the House and Senate Armed Services Committees prepare to mark up the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), they are very likely to consider a number of China-related measures that have been recommended by the national security community and which could enjoy bipartisan support.  These recommendations are generally focused on countering Chinese influence in the United States or increasing the United States’ relative power advantage in the Pacific region. 

Based on the Chairman’s mark of the 2024 NDAA, released to the public last week, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) remains concerned about China’s cooperation with Russia and vulnerabilities created by U.S. reliance on supply chains that depend on China.  The mark includes provisions initiating Department of Defense (DoD) studies and reports on U.S. and DoD supply chains for certain critical materials, including graphite, magnesium, and tungsten, which the U.S. largely depends on China to produce.  It also directs that DoD identify its top-five vulnerabilities in chemical and basic material supply chains, which are dominated by China and Russia, and communicate those gaps to the U.S. biomanufacturing industrial base.  And it prohibits the Secretary of Defense from procuring certain chemicals for munitions — so-called “energetics,” a broad category of explosive and propellant materials used in rockets and missiles — from any country other than a narrow set of U.S. allies and partners.  Finally, Section 1232 of the Chairman’s mark raises the alarm on Chinese-Russian nuclear cooperation, noting that Russia is providing China with highly enriched uranium for its fast-breeder nuclear reactors and directing DoD and other key agencies to develop a strategy to limit Russia’s nuclear proliferation activities.

As HASC and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) gear up for full committee markups this week, it is almost certain that additional China-related measures will be introduced as amendments to the Chairman’s mark in both committees.  Many expect Representative Mike Gallagher, who is both a senior member of the HASC and Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and Chinese Communist Party, to be particularly active in submitting China-focused amendments that reflect legislative and policy recommendations developed by the Select Committee.  Among measures that could be included are ideas recommended by Robert O’Brien, who served as National Security Adviser during the previous administration.  O’Brien outlined 15 recommendations in a recent Foreign Affairs article, including selectively prohibiting Chinese investments in the United States (such as purchases of U.S. farmland); amplifying U.S. investments in naval and missile capabilities; and discouraging U.S. investment in China.  O’Brien raises also the idea of a new CHIPS Act (which established incentives for domestic semiconductor production) to boost domestic production of other critical materials. 

Markup of the 2024 NDAA was delayed as Democrats and Republicans worked out a bill to suspend the debt limit and establish government-wide spending caps earlier this year.  We will know the full content of the HASC bill on or around June 22, when markup is scheduled to conclude.  The marked-up SASC bill is not expected to be made public until it is filed on the Senate floor, likely not until after July 4.

Given the impact that China-related measures will have on U.S. acquisition policies and procedures, the NDAA will have significant implications for government contractors that must at times navigate the U.S.-China relationship.  We will continue to monitor the evolution of the NDAA in both chambers of Congress and issue further updates as the bill moves forward. 

Photo of Michele Pearce Michele Pearce

Michele Pearce has wide-ranging experience working on national security issues throughout her two decades of military and government service. She provides advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.
Before joining Covington…

Michele Pearce has wide-ranging experience working on national security issues throughout her two decades of military and government service. She provides advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.
Before joining Covington, Michele held several senior staff positions within the Department of Defense (DoD) and Congress. Most recently, she served as General Counsel (Acting) of the Department of the Army, providing legal and policy advice to the Secretary of the Army and other service leadership. In this role, Michele was responsible for legal matters related to modernizing acquisition and contracting practices to meet emerging threats, implementing AI and hypersonic systems, and reforming ethics and diversity and inclusion programs.

Prior to her role in the Army, Michele served as Deputy General Counsel (Legislation) at DoD. She was the principal legal advisor to DoD officials, including the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and General Counsel on matters concerning legislation, investigations, and the Department’s Legislative Review Program, which considers more than 400 legislative proposals annually.

Michele also has significant Capitol Hill experience. She was a Senior Defense Advisor to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), advising on legal and budgetary matters related to authorizations and appropriations for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs. Michele also served as Staff Lead/Counsel on the House Armed Services Committee, where she managed one of the largest subcommittees in Congress with a multi-billion dollar budget focused on operations and maintenance activities across DoD. She also served as Staff Lead of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and as Counsel and Professional Staff of the Military Personnel Subcommittee.

Michele also previously served as an Advisor to Andrew Effron, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force; Associate Deputy General Counsel for Personnel and Health Policy at DoD; and as an Air Force Judge Advocate General.

Photo of Stephanie Barna Stephanie Barna

Stephanie Barna draws on over three decades of U.S. military and government service to provide advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Prior to joining the firm, Stephanie was a senior…

Stephanie Barna draws on over three decades of U.S. military and government service to provide advisory and advocacy support and counseling to clients facing policy and political challenges in the aerospace and defense sectors.

Prior to joining the firm, Stephanie was a senior leader on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Most recently, she was General Counsel of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she was responsible for the annual $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Additionally, she managed the Senate confirmation of three- and four-star military officers and civilians nominated by the President for appointment to senior political positions in DoD and the Department of Energy’s national security nuclear enterprise, and was the Committee’s lead for investigations.

Previously, as a senior executive in the Office of the Army General Counsel, Stephanie served as a legal advisor to three Army Secretaries. In 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel appointed her to be the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. In that role, she was a principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on all matters relating to civilian and military personnel, reserve integration, military community and family policy, and Total Force manpower and resources. Stephanie was later appointed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to perform the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, responsible for programs and funding of more than $35 billion.

Stephanie was also previously the Deputy General Counsel for Operations and Personnel in the Office of the Army General Counsel. She led a team of senior lawyers in resolving the full spectrum of issues arising from Army wartime operations and the life cycle of Army military and civilian personnel. Stephanie was also a personal advisor to the Army Secretary on his institutional reorganization and business transformation initiatives and acted for the Secretary in investigating irregularities in fielding of the Multiple Launch Rocket System and classified contracts. She also played a key role in a number of high-profile personnel investigations, including the WikiLeaks breach. Prior to her appointment as Deputy, she was Associate Deputy General Counsel (Operations and Personnel) and Acting Deputy General Counsel.

Stephanie is a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army and served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps as an Assistant to the General Counsel, Office of the Army General Counsel; Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne); Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower & Reserve Affairs); and General Law Attorney, Administrative Law Division.

Stephanie was selected by the National Academy of Public Administration for inclusion in its 2022 Class of Academy Fellows, in recognition of her years of public administration service and expertise.

Photo of Daniel Raddenbach Daniel Raddenbach

Daniel Raddenbach is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office. He is a member of the Government Contracts Practice Group and maintains an active pro bono practice.