President Joe Biden, who signed on Monday, the National Defense Authorization Act, speaks to the media from the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 27 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed Monday a nearly $770 billion defense bill into law, which includes an overhaul on sex assault crimes prosecution.
The National Defense Authorization Act for military appropriations in the 2022 fiscal year includes $740 billion for the Department of Defense, which is $25 billion more than Biden's budget request, according to The Hill. It also includes $27.8 billion for Department of Energy defense-related activities and another $378 million for other defense-related activities.
It includes funding to change how the military prosecutes sexual assault cases, along with other items, such as military construction, basic pay increase for troops, national security programs and intelligence programs, a brief White House statement shows.
"I'm proud of what sets this year's NDAA apart from prior defense bills: A package of significant changes to how the U.S. military will handle sexual assault crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," Representative Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said in a statement. "These reforms -- which are supported by longstanding advocates for survivors of the sexual assault crisis in the military -- will take the prosecution of all sex crimes in the military away from the control of the military commander. Instead, qualified, independent, uniformed attorneys -- ultimately overseen by the civilian Service Secretaries -- will have the sole authority for charging decisions and the responsibility to prosecute those charges."
"As I have said before: These changes to the UCMJ are the most transformational thing that has been done by the House Armed Services Committee in my 25 years of service on the committee, and I thank Congresswoman Jackie Speier for her steadfast leadership on this issue," Smith continued.
The bill also specifically includes a 2.7% pay raise for troops, an independent commission to review the two-decade war in Afghanistan, according to Defense News.
"The Act provides vital benefits and enhances access to justice for military personnel and their families," Biden said in a longer White House statement.
Biden also said in the statement that "unfortunately," certain sections of the legislation continue to bar the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States or custody of certain foreign countries unless certain conditions are met.
He added that these restrictions "constrain the flexibility of the executive branch with respect to its engagement in delicate negotiations with foreign countries over the potential transfer of detainees," and urged Congress to eliminate the restrictions.
Although the bill is signed, the military will still operate under FY21 budget levels until Congressional appropriators reach a funding agreement under a continuing resolution, according to Breaking Defense.
The CR deadline expires in mid-February.
The House authorized the nearly $770 billion in funding earlier this month.