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Will Obama Sign the NDAA?
12/12/2016 Military Seth L
keywords: Legislation

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual bill that authorizes most military spending and defines new military regulations in some instances. For this year, the bill authorizes a total of $618.7 billion for the armed forces, which incorporates $67 billion for the controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which is spending on foreign conflicts that are not officially sanctioned by declarations of war, such as America's involvement in actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. This year's NDAA also includes a pay raise of 2.1 percent for U.S. troops, which is more than the 1.6 percent President Obama had asked for. The NDAA does not mandate young women to register for the draft, a proposal that had previously riled Congressional conservatives.


In fact, not many members of Congress took issue with this year's NDAA as it passed both the House and the Senate with veto-proof majorities. In the House, the bill passed by a 375-34 vote, despite some lingering concern over military budgets. In the Senate, passage was easily assured by a 92-7 vote, with Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) abstaining. The Senators opposing the bill were Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).


Both Congressional Chiefs of the Armed Services Committees, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) approved of reform measures in the legislation. "[This bill] provides the full pay raise to which the troops are statutorily entitled for the first time in six years,” said Rep. Thornberry. “It stops the [drawdowns] of military personnel which have been going on and at least prevents it from getting any worse. It starts to stabilize the readiness problems that are making it more and more difficult for our troops to accomplish their mission."


But just because Congress is fairly satisfied with this bill doesn't mean President Obama will sign it. In fact, there are some potential objections Obama may have, such as a prohibition on transferring prisoners out of the government's detainment facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Last year, Obama signed the NDAA, despite it containing similar provisions. Obama had wanted to close the Guantanamo Bay site before he left office, but it now looks increasingly like the 2009 promise he made relating to those facilities will not be kept.


White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said the bill is "mostly free of the budgetary gimmicks, so we're going to continue to study it."


In the past, Obama has made noises about defense budget measures that violated Congressional spending caps on military expenditures. This year, roughly $3.2 billion of the total amount in the bill is temporary war funding designed to get around the caps, specifically for additional personnel costs. In past years, Obama has threatened to veto the NDAA, but only actually did so in 2015.

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