Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division stand in formation during a rehearsal on Robertson Field at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, May 15, 2023.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division stand in formation during a rehearsal on Robertson Field at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, May 15, 2023. (Frank Spatt/U.S. Army)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — U.S. troop levels in South Korea will remain the same under an annual budget proposal submitted to Congress by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Thursday.

Committee lawmakers from both chambers released their negotiated copy of the National Defense Authorization Act allocating $886 billion to fund the Defense Department through the next fiscal year.

Under the proposal, the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops deployed to South Korea will be maintained to affirm “the United States commitment to extended deterrence using the full range of … defense capabilities.”

Most of those troops are stationed at Camp Humphreys, the largest U.S. military base overseas, roughly 40 miles south of Seoul. It’s home to around 35,000 service members and DOD civilians and serves as headquarters for U.S. Forces Korea, Eighth Army, the 2nd Infantry Division and the Combined Forces Command.

The bill also calls for “deeper coordination on nuclear deterrence” between the United States and South Korea in accordance with the Washington Declaration signed by President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a state visit at the White House on April 26.

Three months after the declaration’s signing, the USS Kentucky made a port call on Busan, marking the first such visit by a ballistic-missile submarine in 42 years.

The bill heads to the House and Senate floors for a final vote before heading to Biden’s desk.

Passage of the NDAA is crucial due to “unprecedented threats from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea,” according to a joint statement attached to the bill by the committees’ chairman and ranking members.

“Through months of hard-fought and productive negotiations, we have crafted a bipartisan and bicameral conference report that strengthens our national security and supports our service members,” said the statement signed by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. “We urge Congress to pass the NDAA quickly and President Biden to sign it when it reaches his desk.”

The bill is a roughly 3.2% increase over the previous fiscal year’s $858 billion. It includes a 5.2% pay increase for service members, the largest in over 20 years.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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