President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 – also known as the NDAA – into law on Monday, commending a number of provisions while also voicing concern over others.
The $768.2 billion in the NDAA includes funds for military construction programs at the Department of Defense, as well as national security and intelligence efforts at the Department of Energy, among other initiatives.
The bill includes a 2.7% pay raise for service members come 2022, and is an overall increase of 5% in military spending from the year before.
“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 wrote in a statement.
The president went on to criticize a number of provisions in the act, including those pertaining to prisoners housed at Guantánamo Bay. One section bars the use of NDAA funds to transfer prisoners to certain foreign countries or to transfer prisoners into the U.S. unless certain conditions are met.
Biden’s statement said the provisions “unduly impair” the executive branch’s ability to decide when and where to prosecute detainees and where to send them when they’re released, and could constrain U.S. negotiations with foreign countries over the transfer of detainees in a way that could undermine national security.
“I urge the Congress to eliminate these restrictions as soon as possible,” Biden added in part.
The White House has said it intends to shutter the prison on the U.S. base in Cuba, which opened in January 2002 and where most of the detainees still held have never been charged with a crime. How or when the administration will carry out that plan remains unclear.
The president also went on to say that he opposes the use of open-air burn pits, which are large parcels of land used to dispose of toxic waste that can lead to health problems to individuals exposed to the chemicals.
Many military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq to get rid of materials like medical waste, rubber, human waste and more. Burn pits are prohibited on U.S. soil, though with certain exemptions.
The $768.2 billion price tag on the final NDAA marks $25 billion more than Biden initially requested from Congress, a prior proposal that was rejected by members of both parties out of concerns it would undermine U.S. efforts to keep pace militarily with China and Russia.
The new bill passed earlier this month with bipartisan support, with Democrats and Republicans touting wins in the final package.
Democrats applauded provisions in the bill overhauling how the military justice system handles sexual assault and other related crimes, effectively taking prosecutorial jurisdiction over such crimes out of the hands of military commanders.
Republicans, meanwhile, touted success in blocking an effort to add women to the draft, as well as the inclusion of a provision that bars dishonorable discharges for service members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.