President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a nearly $770 billion defense bill, setting policy for the Pentagon on a number of areas, the White House announced.
The sweeping National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2022 authorizes a 5 percent increase ($25 billion) in military spending from last year and includes a 2.7 percent pay raise for most military service members.
Congress earlier this month scrambled to pass the annual legislation, with the Senate and the House of Representatives voting overwhelmingly in favor of the bill after several hurdles over China and Russia policy.
“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,” Biden said in a statement after approving the policy.
The $768.2 billion bill was passed by the House in early December in a 363-70 vote, while the Senate passed the NDAA by a 88-11 vote.
The NDAA is closely watched by a broad swath of industry and other interests because it is one of the only major pieces of legislation that becomes law every year and because it addresses a wide range of issues. The NDAA has become law every year for six decades.
It sets policy for the Pentagon on a wide range of areas, and this year’s legislation includes more aircraft and Navy ship purchases to meet the increasing threats directed at Taiwan from China’s ruling communist party, and outlines strategies with a particular focus on “strategic competition” with China and Russia.
On China, the bill triples funding for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative in the Indo-Pacific at a cost of $7.1 billion and outlines a statement of congressional support for the defense of Taiwan. It also includes a ban on the Department of Defense procuring products produced with forced labor from China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.
Biden had requested a lower figure of $5.1 billion for efforts in the Indo-Pacific. The $7.1 billion will support the Pentagon’s plans to further disperse and supply U.S. forces across the first island chain, from the Philippines to Taiwan and Japan, to make them less vulnerable to missile attacks from China.
The United States may also be playing catch up with China and Russia on hypersonic weapons, with the Pentagon being directed to compare its capabilities.
This year’s legislation also includes $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provides support to Ukraine’s armed forces, $4 billion for the European Defense Initiative, and $150 million for Baltic security cooperation.
It creates a 16-member commission to study the war in Afghanistan. Biden ended the conflict in August after he withdrew all remaining U.S. troops from the country before a self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. The Biden administration has received widespread criticism for how it handled the pullout.
The measure also lays out policy for the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which is compelling a large portion of the U.S. military to receive a vaccine in order to remain in the service. It states that members who are discharged for failing to meet a deadline to get vaccinated receive at least a general discharge under honorable conditions, which would allow those affected to qualify for re-enlistment.
Biden in his statement also highlighted certain provisions that he opposed, including policy that bars the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States or to the custody of certain foreign countries 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 Guantánamo Bay detainees and where to send them upon release,” the president said.
Biden also said he was against a provision that “will effectively require executive departments and agencies to submit reports to certain committees.”
This will “include highly sensitive classified information, including information that could reveal critical intelligence sources or military operational plans,” he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times