President Donald Trump paid a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019. This piece of costly legislation, which received very little scrutiny on Capitol Hill, will give military members a pay raise, cover the cost of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), and lay the groundwork for the president’s Space Force proposal.
The White House is marketing the latest NDAA as a policy that will deter adversaries by using peace through strength. The Trump administration is also describing the NDAA as a boon for U.S. allies, including Israel and Europe, while limiting so-called Russian aggression in the region.
What makes this a historic move is that for the first time in more than 20 years, a defense policy bill will become law prior to the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.
“In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense,” President Trump said in a statement addressing his national security policy at a signing ceremony.
Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) thanked the president for arriving in her district and standing by the troops:
“I am proud of the partnership with this Administration to begin rebuilding our military and the President’s visit is an important opportunity to highlight this achievement and to thank our men and women in uniform for their service.”
Full ceremony here:
From national security tariffs to taking aim at Turkey, what is exactly inside the NDAA?
A Peek at NDAA FY 2019
The final vote on the $717 billion NDAA FY 2019 was 87-10, with seven Democrats and two Republicans voting against the bill because of certain riders. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), for instance, opposed it because the fine slapped against Chinese telecommunications company ZTE was too small.
In the next fiscal year, the U.S. government will spend $639.1 billion in base funding, $69 billion in OCO, and $8.9 billion in mandatory defense spending.
The NDAA garnered a lot of attention for establishing a plan to develop space warfighting capabilities. This will consist of producing an initiative to boost the size of the space cadre in the Air Force, building a sub-unified space command, and listing space as a warfighting domain.
President Trump said in a statement:
“Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain. It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space. That is why, just a few days ago, the vice president outlined my administration’s plan to create a sixth branch of the United States Military called the United States Space Force.”
Since President Trump initiated his trade war, the White House has cited national security reasons for the tariffs. Under the NDAA, the Department of Defense would have greater authority over these national security tariffs.
Turkey has been dominating recent headlines: The lira has crashed 40%, the government is looking to take greater control of the economy, and the regime has promised to retaliate to U.S. tariffs. The NDAA might contribute to Ankara’s troubles: The delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters cannot be approved until the nation is assessed for its participation in the F-35 program and its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
Other more mundane elements of the NDAA include a 2.6% wage increase for military service members, a military parade to honor the men and women of the last century, and a system to make it easier to report, prevent, and track juvenile misconduct, crime, and sexual assault.
The biggest expenses will be for purchases, upgrades, and repairs for military equipment:
- $1 billion to repair equipment.
- $500 million for missile defense systems with Israel.
- $360 million for combat vehicles.
- $340.5 million for nationwide depots.
- $105 million for unmanned aircraft systems.
The Pentagon is slated to spend more than $24 million to increase flying hours.
United States Space Force
‘Next Great Chapter’
Trump and the Republicans have routinely blamed former President Barack Obama and the Democrats for ensuring the U.S. military is stuck in the 20th century, despite having the largest defense budget in the world.
The president believes that many parts of the NDAA will ensure that the men and women of the Armed Forces will overcome adversity through their “strength and power”:
“The next great chapter in history is written by the heroes of the United States military. America will always rise to every challenge and overcome every danger because we are backed by the strength and power of the American soldier. Speaking to his troops, General George Patton, a great one, once said, ‘We have the finest equipment and the best spirit and the best men in the world.'”
“Nearly 75 years later, Patton’s words still ring true in America.”
You can count the NDAA as another promise kept by Trump. He wanted to spend more, he wanted to increase the military’s power, and make the nation’s enemies more fearful. And that’s done. Now, if he would use NDAA funding to send politicians to space and leave them there…?