An obscure piece of law for 40-plus years, nowadays the defense budget is watched as a major legislative event. Advocates of a non-interventionist foreign policy and defenders of liberty now wait every year to see what else the military-industrial complex and big government politicians have up their sleeves in the form of the National Defense Authorization Act, otherwise known as the NDAA.
The NDAA bill will total more than $700 billion in spending for the upcoming fiscal year. The legislation overwhelmingly passed in the House, garnering 351 aye votes, and now it’s being debated in the Senate, where it will likely get passed with very little scrutiny. However, unlike in previous years, particularly under the administration of former President Barack Obama, the latest incarnation seems rather tame.
The NDAA 2012 allowed the government to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens without a warrant, charge, or trial if a bureaucrat believed they helped al-Qaeda or other hostile forces. In 2016, the NDAA forced young women to be registered to be drafted into the military while the ostensibly anti-war left cheered on.
Does the NDAA fiscal year 2019 include similar goodies?
Helping and Honoring Servicemembers
In total, the U.S. government will spend $717 billion in the next fiscal year. This contains $639.1 billion in base funding, $69 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), and $8.9 billion for mandatory defense spending.
One aspect of the legislation that has garnered bipartisan support is heightened care and attention for servicemembers and their families. It is proposed that the government will not shut down or downgrade any military medical treatment center until every facility is successfully transitioned to the Defense Health Agency. Whether this actually creates more frustrating and grueling bureaucracy or not remains to be seen.
Troops will receive a 2.6% wage increase, as well as special pay, bonuses, and incentives for personnel serving their country in high-demand fields. This will apply to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard. The feds will allocate another $11.3 billion for military construction, which includes family housing.
To enhance oversight and accountability, the Department of Defense will be required to advance the process of reporting crimes to the FBI, improve tracking of juvenile misconduct in DoD schools, and revise sexual assault prevention to better help victims.
What will likely generate the most controversy across the country is the proposal to hold a national military celebration in Washington, D.C. to honor the men and women in uniform of the last 100 years. This is something that President Donald Trump wanted following his visit to France, where President Emmanuel Macron held an extravagant military parade.
Building a 21st Century Military
During the 2016 election, most Republicans agreed that the military’s equipment is obsolete and needs to be updated and rebuilt for the 21st century. The latest NDAA accomplishes this objective.
Here are some of the purchases that the U.S. government will make for the Pentagon:
- $360 million for Stryker A1 combat vehicles.
- $85 million for UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters.
- $105 million for EQ-4 unmanned aircraft systems.
- $150 million for conventional prompt strike capabilities.
- $500 million for co-defense missile defense systems with Israel.
Washington is looking at other ways to restore military readiness:
- Increase training by spending $24.2 million to boost flying hours.
- Spend $927.9 more to repair equipment.
- Reform bureaucracy by locating efficiencies across the DoD.
- Slash 25% of the budget for DoD activities, like human resources and property management.
- Authorize $340.5 million for the maintenance of nationwide depots.
Are you ready for some space wars? Well, not the Star Wars kind by any means. President Trump has made it clear that he wants to enhance U.S. military presence in space, and the NDAA moves ahead with that aim.
According to the legislation, the Pentagon will be directed to create a plan to develop its space warfighting capabilities. The Secretary of the Air Force will be tasked with producing and implementing an initiative to increase the size and quality of the space cadre within the Air Force. The government will also put in place a sub-unified command for space under the Strategic Command that would launch joint space warfighting and identify space as a warfighting domain.
Pyongyang and Moscow Still the Enemy
Despite the president’s best efforts to improve diplomatic relations with North Korea and Russia, the NDAA still apparently views the two nations as enemies of the state, which will likely please the Democrats and the mainstream media.
Here is how the U.S. will treat Moscow moving forward:
- Apply new sanctions on its arms industry.
- Ban military-to-military cooperation.
- Send $250 million to Ukraine for its lethal defense systems against Russia.
- Spend $6.3 billion to boost the number of U.S. troops in Europe to deter Russian aggression.
- Bolster funding for international partnerships to counter Russian aggression.
The language regarding Pyongyang is a bit vague, but it might be problematic if Trump wants to maintain his agreement with Kim Jong-un.
The NDAA states that U.S. forces will be prepared for “potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula.” The bill further supports missile defense exercises and a precision strike missile program in the region.
As expected, the House and Senate will target China and Iran, too. The DoD will plan for China’s latest investments and advancements in its military capabilities, as well as offer military and logistics support in the region by running military exercises alongside Australia, India, and Japan. Additionally, U.S. taxpayers will send dollars to Taiwan to help enhance its military capabilities — a provocative move, given that Beijing still claims sovereignty over the island.
On Tehran, the NDAA launches a Defense Partnership to Counter Iran and more support for the Gulf Cooperation Council unity.
Representing What’s Wrong with Washington
Compared to past National Defense Authorization Acts, this year’s bill was filled with more welfare for well-connected defense contractors and contradictions to the White House’s recent diplomatic efforts, not the erosion of your liberty. The NDAA represents what’s wrong with Washington today: undermining peaceful missions, sending the country deeper into debt, making more enemies around the world, and ensuring Americans are less safe. Let’s hope the next NDAA bill contains this caveat: end the wars and bring the troops home.
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