President Biden enacts annual defense policy bill

President Biden enacted the annual Defense Policy Bill on Monday, ending months of partisan back and forth over a litany of burning issues as legislation progressed through Congress.

The final version of the $ 770 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes an almost 5% increase in military spending from 2021 after Republicans and some Democrats fought to include a $ 25 billion increase. dollars compared to the budget proposed by Mr. Biden for the Pentagon.

Those who backed the additional funding said the president’s inflation-sidelined budget proposal would have left the Pentagon off guard in the face of emerging threats.

“This bill was the culmination of months of bipartisan work to strengthen our national security and support our troops,” said Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

“This year’s NDAA provides our military with a critical funding increase to ensure our fighters have the tools they need to tackle the threats our country faces,” he said.

This year’s NDAA includes several key actions aimed at countering Russia and China.

The bill authorizes just over $ 7 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, a plan designed to counter China’s growing influence in the region. It also contains language reaffirming US support for Taiwan.

Regarding Russia, the bill authorizes $ 4 billion for the European Defense Initiative and provides funds to strengthen Ukraine’s defense forces.

The bill also includes key policy measures, including a provision that will prevent the Pentagon from withdrawing military personnel who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine with less than a general discharge under honorable conditions.

This year’s NDAA also introduces changes to the military justice system.

Major crimes such as rape, sexual assault and murder will be turned over to specialized military prosecutors under the bill, rather than unit commanders.

The text also leaves in place provisions from previous years that ban the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, although Democrats have resumed efforts this year to shut down the Bush-era facility.

Under the legislation, Congress will also launch a commission to study the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which ended with the chaotic withdrawal of President Biden’s summer troops.

Several divisive measures were excluded from the final text of the bill, including a proposal that would have required women to register for the military project, which Republicans vehemently opposed before it was withdrawn from the military project. the final version during closed-door negotiations.

Republican lawmakers also avoided a measure that would have repealed the authorizations for the 1991 and 2002 Iraq war.

Mr Biden on Monday presented his objections to several elements of the bill, including the blocking of transfers from Guantanamo, but he said the NDAA as a whole provides welcome political guidance for the Pentagon.

“The law provides vital benefits and improves access to justice for service members and their families, and includes authorities essential to support our country’s national defense,” Biden said in a statement.

The NDAA has been promulgated annually for the past six decades.

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