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Senate passes annual defense bill authorizing Pentagon to provide $770 billion in funding



The law was passed by the State earlier this month, meaning it has now moved to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law. The final total of votes was 88-11. The original vote total was 89-10, but Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey obtained unanimous consent to change his vote from “yea” to “now” after the vote.

The bill not only authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and outlines the policy agenda for the largest agency of the US government and military. This year, the bill includes a number of changes to the military justice system aimed at reforming the way the US military handles sexual assault and harassment cases.

The final version of the bill also includes a 2.7% pay increase for military service members and civilian employees of the Department of Defense, the creation of an “Independent Multi-Year Afghanistan War Committee” to see review the war in Afghanistan after the US military withdrew and provided $300 million. military aid to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a text summary of the bill from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees states.

“I have been talking for weeks about the importance of this legislation in light of the global threats and international challenges facing our country from China to Russia in the fight against terrorists in China. East,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said Wednesday ahead of the final vote, noting that he was proud to support the bill.

Kentucky Republicans also praised the bill’s importance as “a powerful source of funding to deter Russia in Europe.”

But several key provisions expected to be passed in this year’s version of the NDAA were not included in the final version of the bill, including an amendment to repeal the License to Use Military Force. against Iraq in 2002, sanctions against Nord Stream 2 participants and additional sanctions against Russia.

No amendments were added to either version of the bill after Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida upheld the Senate’s version of the NDAA earlier in December. The final version of the bill was released to the public. was to pass the Senate first with a package of agreed amendments, but Rubio refused to lift his position unless his amendment, which would have barred the United States from buying products made in Uyghur forced labor camps. in China’s Xinjiang province, was included.

Instead, the bill was negotiated with leadership from both houses and passed in the House first, then the Senate. In this agreement, management decided that neither party would add amendments when the bill was put on the floor of both houses.

“The process is written with flaws and omissions,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.

GOP Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said the shortening process prevented both houses from having a “harsh debate” on key issues in the bill at a press conference criticizing the final version this week. before.

“We should have joined this bill much earlier so we could have a lively debate on extremely important issues, especially sexual assault and judicial reform,” Ernst said. military,” Ernst said.

Changes to the military justice system

Senator Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, voted against the bill and is a staunch supporter of changing the military justice system and how it handles prosecution. and punish those accused of sexual assault and harassment. She said she believes the changes in the NDAA do not go far enough to reform the military justice system.

In the version expected to pass the Senate, military commanders will have to refer sexual harassment complaints against their subordinates to an independent investigator. Under the bill, commanders are also excluded from “decisions regarding the prosecution of covered crimes,” including rape, sexual assault, murder and manslaughter. Instead, those decisions will be forwarded to the Office of Special Test Advisors that will be created within each service.

Gillibrand’s has proposed that commanders be removed from the chain of command and from military judicial proceedings surrounding the outright prosecution of such crimes when one of their subordinates is charged with assault and harassment. sex.

Under the current bill, if special trial counsel determines a crime is not within their jurisdiction or “chooses not to press charges,” they could refer the indictment back to the command or summons agency.

Blumenthal said of the final version of the NDAA last week: “We failed to separate from the chain of command some important procedural decisions, but also a whole bunch of crimes related to sexual assault. ,” Blumenthal said of the final version of the NDAA last week.

While the bill doesn’t go far enough for this group of senators, the Pentagon and the White House have called the changes in the bill “historic.”

At the Pentagon, spokesman John Kirby hailed the provisions as “a historic initiative here, removing those crimes and the crimes associated with them, prosecuting them out of order.”

The White House called it “a historic point … significant for reforming the military justice system and its handling of sexual assault cases.”

“The President believes that this act makes breakthroughs to improve sexual assault response and prevention in the military,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. reporters while accompanying the President to Kansas City, Missouri last week.

Other issues in the bill

About “unusual health incidents”, commonly known as Havana Syndrome, the bill authorizes the President to appoint a “senior official” to lead a “whole government” effort to resolve the incidents, the summary states. The bill also establishes an “inter-DoD functional group” to coordinate the Pentagon’s response to medical incidents. The group will address “national security challenges” posed by health incidents and ensure that those experiencing incidents receive prompt medical care, the bill states.

The bill directs the President to develop a “Grand Strategy with Respect for China,” with an unclassified summary, the bill text states. It also directs the DoD to compile a number of reports on China’s activities, from its military and security developments, to modernizing technology for its military applications, to its strategy in the US. Latin and Caribbean, the bill states.

On Afghanistan, the bill establishes an independent Afghanistan War Committee to “review” the 20-year conflict and it requires the secretary to provide “in-depth” reports to Congress on America’s ability to counterterrorism in the region, “accountability. “military equipment left behind in the country and” any plans “to evacuate American citizens and “allied Afghanistan” are still there, the summary states.

This story and title was updated with additional developments on Wednesday.

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