President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018, during a signing ceremony in the Roosevelt Room on Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 12 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed into law Tuesday the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, a $700 billion defense budget that seeks to increase military spending and operational capabilities.
The bill includes measures like the establishment of a U.S. Space Corps within the Air Force by 2019, a 2.4 percent pay raise for troops, special pay for situations like combat and hazardous duty and bonuses for re-enlistment contracts.
The act also enables the Pentagon to procure 90 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets and 14 Navy ships from defense contractor Huntington Ingalls, in addition to authorizing $12.3 billion for missile defense.
Additionally, the act calls for reform of the Defense Department's acquisition process and requires service contracts be submitted through the Pentagon's budget process in order to determine actual needs and spending patterns.
"In recent years, our military has undergone a series of deep budget cuts that have severely impacted our readiness, shrunk our capabilities and placed substantial burdens on our warfighters," Trump said, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry and other military officials and senior Cabinet members.
"This legislation will enhance our readiness, expand and modernize our forces and help provide our service members with the tools they need to fight and win. We will fight and win, but hopefully with this we won't have to fight because people will not be wanting to fight with us," Trump said.
While the NDAA sets Pentagon policies and establishes military spending caps for fiscal year 2018, it does not provide the funding. A deadline for Congress to pass a federal budget and appropriations bills is looming as the current budgetary continuing resolution is set to expire on Dec. 22.
Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from military officials, including U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Ellen Lord, the Pentagon's top acquisition official, about how they are attempting to reform and speed up the agency's acquisition process.
On average, the Department of Defense awards 1,800 contracts per day, in addition to 36,000 delivery and task orders, Lord said.
The plan is to speed up the awarding of contracts by about 50 percent and to procure new acquisitions within 210 days, with an ultimate goal of streamlining the process to 180 days.
While the 2018 NDAA budget is substantially higher than the one former President Barack Obama and Congress implemented in 2016, military officials have said it is still largely inadequate in addressing everything the Defense Department is tasked to do.
The gap between military needs and the current budget has resulted in unmet readiness requirements, the inability to increase manpower or procure the latest resources, inadequate maintenance of vehicles and aircraft and deferred investments on new acquisitions and training programs, military officials have said.