Biden Signs $768B National Defense Act Into Law

Biden Signs $768B National Defense Act Into Law

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
December 29, 2021

President Biden signed the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act in law, authorizing $768.2 billion in defense spending.

The National Defense Authorization Act passed Congress with bipartisan support, over the opposition of liberals over push to decrease defense spending and push for more social spending. The House passed the bill by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 363-70 vote in early December, and the Senate later passed the bill by a bipartisan 88-11 vote.

In a statement after signing the bill, Biden said the NDAA will provide "vital benefits and enhances access to justice for military personnel and their families, and includes critical authorities to support our country's national defense."

However, the President called out several provisions of the NDAA that he was against. Among them, Biden urged Congress to eliminate provisions that restrict the use of funds to transfer detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

"Unfortunately, section 1032 of the Act continues to bar the use of funds to transfer Guantánamo Bay detainees to the custody or effective control of certain foreign countries, and section 1033 of the Act bars the use of funds to transfer Guantánamo Bay detainees into the United States unless certain conditions are met," the statement from Biden reads.

Biden said the provisions "unduly impair" the executive branch's ability to decide when and where to prosecute detainees and where to send them when they're released. He also noted that it could constrain U.S. negotiations with foreign countries over the transfer of detainees in a way that could undermine national security.

"I urge the Congress to eliminate these restrictions as soon as possible," Biden said.

Biden also opposed provisions that require sharing with Congress information regarding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the threat of Iranian-backed militias to U.S. personnel in Iraq and the Middle East. The president said he had concerns about revealing intelligence sources.

"Certain provisions of the Act raise constitutional concerns or questions of construction. Some provisions of the Act, including sections 1048, 1213(b), 1217, and 1227(a)(1), will effectively require executive departments and agencies to submit reports to certain committees that will, in the ordinary course, include highly sensitive classified information, including information that could reveal critical intelligence sources or military operational plans," the statement reads.

"The Constitution vests the President with the authority to prevent the disclosure of such highly sensitive information in order to discharge his responsibility to protect the national security. At the same time, congressional oversight committees have legitimate needs to perform vital oversight and other legislative functions with respect to national security and military matters... I believe the Congress shares this understanding, and my Administration will presume that it is incorporated into statutory reporting requirements of the kind at issue in the Act," the statement added.

The final version of the NDAA incorporates elements of the version that passed the House in September and the legislation approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in July.
It provides $778 billion for the Department of Defense, which is $25 billion more than what the President requested for the agency for the fiscal year 2022.

The fiscal 2022 NDAA authorizes about 5% more military spending than 2021 $740 billion NDAA. It also includes a 2.7% pay increase for the troops and more aircraft and Navy ship purchases, in addition to strategies for dealing with geopolitical threats, especially Russia and China.

On Ukraine, the NDAA includes $300 million to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, funding to support Ukraine's armed forces, $4 billion for the European Defense Initiative, and $150 million for Baltic security cooperation.

Along with spending for the Defense Department and allies, the NDAA also prohibits goods manufactured via forced Uyghur labor in China from entering the U.S. and starts planning on the proposed Global War on Terror Memorial on the National Mall.

Biden added a personal note to the statement, noting his opposition to the use of open-air burn pits. Biden has previously said he believes the exposure to burn pits in Iraq was the cause of his late son, Beau Biden's brain cancer that killed him in 2015, though the president has stated he cannot prove it the direct cause.

"Finally, I oppose the use of open-air burn pits, which is prohibited in contingency operations by Public Law 111-84, section 317 (10 U.S.C. 2701 note). I request that the Secretary of Defense seek Presidential approval prior to exercising the exemption authority to this prohibition added by section 316 of the Act," Biden wrote.

The NDAA is a policy bill and doesn't authorize any actual spending. With Biden signing the NDAA into law, the next step is Congress passing an appropriations bill to fund the Department of Defense before Feb.18, when the continuing resolution to fund the government ends.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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