The Estonian American National Council (EANC) is tracking several bills in process in Congress that include significant funding for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The House and Senate passed their versions of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA) in late July, while the House has also released its State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) and Defense Appropriations bills.
The Senate report accompanying its version of the NDAA included language commending the Baltic countries on meeting the 2% of GDP benchmark for defense spending, investing in capabilities to deter and resist the Kremlin’s aggression, and improving their coordination on defense requirements and procurement. At the same time, the report recognized that each nation’s security requirements will likely exceed the resources their defense budgets can provide and called for a joint study by the Secretaries of Defense and State to assess the three nations’ military requirements. The study should address their needs,
“to deter and resist aggression by the Russian Federation and to report to the Congress on the results of that assessment. The committee underscores the importance of this assessment, which is intended to provide a substantive foundation for expanded defense cooperation between the United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania…”
The 650-page Senate Report 116-236 identifies defense cooperation with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in its Items of Special Interest section, starting on page 307. The due date for the study is August 15th and EANC will report on its findings once they’re made public.
The House SFOPS bill includes $11.4 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds for each Baltic nation. This is a $3.4 million increase over last year and the highest level the countries have seen since the program started in the early 1990s.
The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee recommends “$150,000,000 for International Security Cooperation Programs with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through the Baltic Security Initiative (BSI), including $50,000,000 to enhance the integrated air defense of such countries.” The recommendation also calls for the Secretary of Defense to submit a strategy for the BSI before the funds will be obligated. The full report is available at appropriations.house.gov under Defense Subcommittee, Legislation, and FY2021 Filed Report – 116-453. The BSI is discussed at the bottom of page 111. EANC advocated for the initiative earlier this year and we’re happy to see it getting some attention.
It will likely still be a while before any of these bills are signed into law. Congress currently has more immediate concerns such as this year’s elections and finding agreement on COVID-19 relief legislation, which will likely take priority in the coming weeks. It’s not unusual for NDAA legislation to be finalized as late as November or December. EANC will continue to follow developments and keep our readers informed.