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Rep. Hill's provisions included in new defense budget that passed the House

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Congressman French Hill
U.S Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, speaking to colleagues on the House during a July meeting.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill for defense funding for the fiscal year that got underway this month. U.S Rep. French Hill of Arkansas’ 2nd District was able to get provisions he wanted included in the legislation.

In an interview with KUAR News, Hill, R-Little Rock, said the defense budget is important because it guides the Department of Defense's strategy.

According to Politico, the National Defense Authorization Act approved by the House provides more than $800 billion for military spending in fiscal year 2023. Hill, who voted for the bill, said the amount approved by the House is about $30 billion more than what President Joe Biden had requested.

“That principally is because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation and the impact of those items on the Department of Defense, as well our need to update our Navy and our strategic defenses in the nuclear arena,” Hill said.

One of the measures in the bill to address inflation is a 4.6% pay increase for service members, according to a press release from Hill’s office.

In addition to addressing Russia, Hill said there are sections to deal with China, which has signaled intentions of advancing on Taiwan. Hill said the bill includes training and military supplies for Taiwan.

“This bill reinforces and reiterates our support of Taiwan as a trading partner,” the congressman said.

Hill’s provisions

One of the provisions Hill added to the bill will look to address issues relating to supply chains. After March of 2020, Hill said he realized the need to address America’s reliance on China for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. He explained the bill makes changes to the Defense Production Act to address the issue.

“It [Hill's provision] says under the Defense Production Act that America has to have a strategy and have supply chain planning for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, the ingredients that go into pharmaceuticals and PPE [personal protective equipment] in case of a pandemic. That was a key issue in the bill,” Hill said.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Defense Production Act is a law that allows the president to temporarily intervene in the economy to direct the production of goods and services in the interest of national security.

When asked if the bill includes provisions to ramp up domestic production of semiconductor chips, Hill said they were not included. He added there is a bill pending in the Senate to address that.

U.S Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in an interview with the Associated Press that it is a national security issue if the U.S has to rely on China for semiconductor chips, which are used in cell phones and cars. Hill said he was present in a closed-door meeting with Raimondo and other lawmakers on Thursday.

“We have to make sure that we have a resilient supply chain for the semiconductors and advanced semiconductors here in the United States, as well as countries friendly to the United States,” Hill said.

The congressman’s proposed changes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also included in the final draft of the bill.

Hill said his provision bars Russia and Belarus from accessing the IMF, which comprises 190 countries that provide financial assistance to nations, according to Investopedia.

The final provision of Hill’s that was included in the bill was related to captagon.

“A lot of Americans don’t know about it, but captagon is like a methamphetamine drug that’s being made in Syria by Bashar al-Assad [president of Syria] and the Assad military financed by Assad and the Iranians. It’s being distributed all over the Middle East to addict people to harden narcotics,” Hill said.

Hill said his provision calls on the U.S government to create a strategy to address this spread. He added it is important to stop the spread in the Middle East because the drug could find its way to the United States.

The bill still needs approval from the U.S Senate and then will head to President Biden for approval.

Ronak Patel was a reporter for KUAR News focusing on state and local government.