US House of Representatives passes $619 billion defense bill

The U.S. House easily passed a defense policy bill to the tune of $619 billion. It will fund operations in Afghanistan, against the Islamic State (IS) and also halt reductions in military manpower as well as fill gaps in military readiness.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, 375 to 34 making it immune from any presidential veto. The Senate is expected to deal with the bill, the National Defense Authorization Act next week. It is expected to pass and be sent on to President Obama.
The legislation worked on over months by House and Senate Armed Services Committee adds a total of $3.2 billion over what the president had requested, to remedy what were considered to be readiness shortfalls. Also added, was a $5.8 billion request for more troops in Afghanistan and for increased operations against IS in both Syria and Iraq. The new bill also provides $59.5 for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).
The new bill also gives troops a 2.1 percent pay raise as compared to just 1.6 percent requested by the Obama administration. Democratic member of the committee from Connecticut, Joe Courtney, said: “A transition is inherently fraught with risk, and to the extent that you can eliminate risk, like military pay and procurement programs, getting this done is a very positive development." The number of additional troops was upped as well. The Army will get 476,000 troops, 16,000 more than requested. The Marines will get 185,000, which is 3,000 more than requested. The Navy remains at 323,900 troops. However, weapons programs such as additional F-35 jets, F/A 18 Super Hornets and a Littoral Combat Ship were left out of the final version of the bill. Another proposal that was scrapped was a requirement that women register for the draft. This omission was largely symbolic since military service at present in voluntary.
Most Democrats supported the bill. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said: "We put together an excellent product. It prioritizes the men and women who serve in the military to try to make sure that we provide for them all the training they need and all the support they need, so that when we ask them to do something they are trained and ready to do it." As in previous bills there is a provision that bars prisoners at Guantanamo from being transferred to the US. This will likely ensure Obama will not be able to close Guatanamo before his presidency ends.
The White House has not said whether Obama would attempt to veto the bill. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said: “We haven't seen the text of it, but we'll obviously review it. That may take a little time, but once we've reached a conclusion about whether or not the president will sign it, we'll let you know.”


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