The bill rejects Biden’s $ 715 billion budget proposal for the Pentagon and instead calls for $ 740 billion for the Department of Defense.
While Biden’s demand for military spending to be increased above current levels, Republicans quickly found the blueprint insufficient to keep pace with inflation and China and Russia’s military advances. Most of the Democrats on Capitol Hill agreed, and both the House and Senate supported further budget increases in their respective versions of the Defense Act.
In total, the bill provides $ 768 billion for national defense programs, including the Pentagon and nuclear weapons programs overseen by the Department of Energy.
But the Defense Policy Bill only approves spending and does not actually allocate money. Legislators have yet to reach an agreement to fund the government for the remainder of the budget year for the defense increase to become a reality.
In the meantime, the Pentagon and other federal agencies have frozen at last year’s funding levels cemented under former President Donald Trump. For the defense, this means that total funding is even below the level proposed by Biden, which Congress rejected as insufficient.
The approved budget increase will mean billions more for arms procurement, including more planes and ships, than the Pentagon has requested.
Top Democrats touted a host of legislative victories in the final bill, including a revision of the way the military justice system deals with sexual assault and other related crimes. The final legislation also includes Democrat-backed language that prohibits private funding for National Guard operations between states, except for emergency response in the event of natural disasters.
“There’s a lot to be proud of in this bill,” House Armed Services chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Said in a statement. “Ultimately, this year’s NDAA will focus on what makes our country strong: our economy, diversity, innovation, allies and partners, democratic values and our troops.”
Still, Republicans see the law as a conservative political victory based not only on what was in the compromise draft, but also on provisions that were sunk in negotiations.
Although the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, the final bill received more Republican votes.
Top Republican House of Representatives Mike Rogers, Alabama, praised the bill’s “critical increase” and the focus on competition with Beijing and Moscow.
“Our work is not finished yet. As we approach the New Year, our nation faces unprecedented aggression and threats from equal opponents, namely China and Russia, ”said Rogers. “Addressing these threats will continue to be our number one priority as we look to FY23.”
In addition to accepting their proposed $ 25 billion increase in budget, GOP lawmakers welcomed a provision prohibiting military services from dishonorable dismissal of service members simply for rejecting the Covid-19 vaccine.
The Conservatives also won a victory by torpedoing a proposal requiring women to register for conscription. The expansion of the selective service system was included in both House and Senate bills and was backed by bipartisan majorities, but Republicans eventually won the concession to pull it out of the final deal.
Republicans also announced the ruling out of a proposal sponsored by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) And Democratic backing that would establish a Pentagon office dedicated to combating extremism in the military.
The lack of broader anti-extremism regulations and a major overhaul of the military justice system that deprived commanders of the criminal prosecution of all crimes – spurred on by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) – was enough for some Democrats to make it through to the finals oppose bill.
The White House also issued a long signature statement setting out Biden’s objections to certain provisions being implemented after the bill was passed.
Biden’s main objections are provisions preventing the government from transferring prisoners held in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, Cuba, to US soil and four other countries – Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
Provisions preventing attempts to shut down Gitmo, as Biden announced, have become an annual part of the Defense Act. The White House criticized these provisions, however, arguing that the restrictions made compliance with court orders difficult, unduly preventing the executive branch from determining where detainees would be tried, and restricting potential negotiations on transferring detainees with other countries would.
“I urge Congress to lift these restrictions as soon as possible,” wrote Biden.
Biden also referred to a provision in the bill giving the Pentagon an exemption from the ban on the use of outdoor cremation pits in emergency military operations outside the United States
Biden, who said he believes exposure to cremation pits may have caused the brain cancer that his son Beau died of in 2015, said in the statement that he opposes the use of outdoor cremation pits and would ask Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to obtain their consent before using the exemption.
The government also warned that multiple reporting requirements could force the executive branch to “disclose critical intelligence sources or military operation plans” to Congress. These include provisions that require: written notification from the Pentagon to Congress of any military cooperation or intelligence information shared with the Taliban; a report on equipment and property left or destroyed in Afghanistan; and a report by the director of the national intelligence service on Iran’s military capabilities.
Biden said he will be compliant with Congressional reporting but citing previous executive branch practices in a manner that protects classified information.