President Joe Biden signed a $770 billion defense bill on Monday that marks an increase in spending in almost every faction of the military.
The $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) ended up being $24 billion more than Biden asked for, according to The New York Times. It passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support in December, though it did face some opposition from certain Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
The NDAA increased spending aimed at helping Ukraine defend itself, countering military expansion in China and obtaining more advanced aircraft and ships, according to the NYT. The Biden administration previously identified China as a “top challenge” while making the budget proposal.
“The discretionary request prioritizes the need to counter the threat from China as the Department’s top challenge. The Department would also seek to deter destabilizing behavior by Russia,” Biden’s budget request, issued in April and asking for $715 billion, reads. (RELATED: Biden Unveils Budget Request For $6 Trillion In Spending, Highest Since World War II)
The agreed-upon NDAA also increases pay for more service members by 2.7% – a provision that was overwhelmingly bipartisan, even garnering the support of lawmakers who ultimately voted against passing the NDAA in the House.
“The Act authorizes fiscal year appropriations principally for the Department of Defense, for Department of Energy national security programs, and for the Department of State,” Biden said in a statement on Monday following the bill’s signing. “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.”
The president criticized various portions of the bill in a statement following its signing. Some were relating to Guantanamo Bay, with Biden calling it unfortunate that one section “continues to bar the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to the custody or effective control of certain foreign countries.” He also called out a second portion of the bill that “bars the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States unless certain conditions are met.”
“It is the longstanding position of the executive branch that these provisions unduly impair the ability of the executive branch to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo Bay detainees and where to send them upon release,” Biden argued.
Still, the NDAA, which covers the fiscal year 2022, includes some marked changes. One agreement included in the bill will overhaul how the military handles internal criminal investigations, according to the NYT. Now, military commanders will lose much of the previous authority they had to prosecute sexual assault cases, for example. They’ll often be replaced by independent military prosecutors.
In another new move, sexual harassment in the military will now be criminalized under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Independent investigation will also be required for crimes such as kidnapping and murder. Lawmakers praised the bill as transformative.
“These reforms, which are supported by longstanding advocates for survivors of the sexual assault crisis in the military, will take the prosecution of all sex crimes in the military away from the control of the military commander,” Democratic Washington Rep. Adam Smith said, according to the NYT. “Instead, qualified, independent, uniformed attorneys — ultimately overseen by the civilian service secretaries — will have the sole authority for charging decisions and the responsibility to prosecute those charges.”