By a vote of 86-8, the Senate voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790) which includes funding to accelerate artificial intelligence solutions within the Defense Innovation Unit, enhancing cybersecurity, and cloud capabilities.

Sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the topline amount for the bill is $750 billion, which is more than the $733 billion proposed by the House version of the bill. The two bills still must be reconciled and the House expects to take up its version of the bill in July.

The bill proposes $642.5 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD), $75.9 for the overseas contingency operations fund, and $23.3 billion for the Department of Energy’s national security programs. The bill also includes a plan to consolidate the National Background Investigation Bureau at the DoD, which is already in process from an executive order.

The bill also creates career paths for “digital engineering,” establishing it as a core competency of the Armed Forces. Career paths include data science, machine learning, and software product management.

The bill also requires DoD to establish a cloud migration strategy, reorient the Big Data Platform project to align with the department’s cybersecurity strategy, and develop a comprehensive framework for the cybersecurity of the defense industrial base.

“Congress has passed this critical legislation for 58 years running, and now, we’re one step closer to doing it for a 59th year,” Sen. Inhofe said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to find a bipartisan, bicameral agreement during conference to meet the security needs of a nation increasingly at risk.”

“This is a very good bill,” the Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said. “It passed our committee on a vote of 25-2, a totally bipartisan vote. It contains many needed authorities, funding authorizations, and reforms that will help the men and women of our armed services.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.