President Biden signs annual defense policy bill into law

President Biden on Monday signed into law the annual defense-policy bill, capping months of partisan back-and-forth over a litany of hot-button issues as the legislation made its way through Congress.

The final version of the $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes a nearly 5% increase in military spending over 2021 after Republicans and some Democrats fought to include a $25 billion boost over Mr. Biden’s proposed Pentagon budget.

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

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

“This year’s NDAA provides our military with a crucial funding increase to ensure that our warfighters have the tools they need to combat the threats our nation faces,” he said.

Included in this year’s NDAA are several key measures 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 U.S. support for Taiwan.

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

The bill also includes key policy measures, including a provision that will block the Pentagon from removing service members 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 felonies such as rape, sexual assault, and murder will be handed to specialized military prosecutors under the bill, rather than to unit commanders.

The text also leaves in place provisions from previous years which ban the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S., despite Democrats this year resuming their push to close the Bush-era facility.

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

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 draft, which was opposed vehemently by Republicans before it was dropped from the final version in closed-door negotiations.

Republican lawmakers also averted a measure that would have repealed the 1991 and 2002 Iraq War authorizations.

Mr. Biden on Monday outlined objections he had to several items in the bill, including the block on Guantanamo transfers, but he said that the NDAA overall provides welcomed policy guidance for the Pentagon.

“The Act provides vital benefits and enhances access to justice for military personnel and their families, and includes critical authorities to support our country’s national defense,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

The NDAA has been signed into law every year for the past six decades.


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