Biden signs annual defense bill

Biden signs annual defense bill
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Joe Biden signed the vital National Defense Authorization Act military funding bill, passed earlier this month by Congress, into law Monday morning.

The annual defense bill authorizes $770 billion in funding for the Defense Department. It also outlines the policy agenda for the government’s largest agency and the US military. This year, the bill includes several changes to the military justice system to overhaul how the US military handles sexual assault and harassment.

While some senators wanted the bill to go further in addressing sexual assault and harassment in the military, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby earlier this month hailed the provisions as “an historic initiative here, removing those crimes and related crimes, the prosecution of them outside of the chain of command.”

The White House called it “a historical point … with meaningful reform of the military justice system and handling of handling of sexual assault cases.”

“The President believes that this legislation takes groundbreaking steps to improve the response and … prevention of sexual assault in the military,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with the President to Kansas City, Missouri, earlier this month.

The final version of the bill also included a 2.7% pay increase for military service members and Defense Department civilian employees, established a “multi-year independent Afghanistan War Commission” to examine the war in Afghanistan after the US military withdrawal and provided $300 million in military aid to the Ukrainian Security Assistance Initiative, according to summaries of the bill’s text from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

Several key provisions that were expected to be passed in this year’s version of the NDAA did not make it into the final version of the bill, including an amendment to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq, sanctions against countries participating in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and additional sanctions against Russia.

This story has been updated with additional background information.

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