Senate sends $692B defense policy bill to Trump's desk

Senate sends $692B defense policy bill to Trump's desk
© Getty

The Senate on Wednesday passed by voice vote fiscal 2018’s nearly $700 billion defense policy bill.

The vote, which comes after Tuesday’s 356-70 House approval, sends the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

The compromise version hashed out by Senate and House negotiators would authorize $626.4 billion for the base defense budget and $65.7 billion for a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations.

ADVERTISEMENT

The money would go toward a 2.4 percent pay raise for service members, an increase of 20,000 active duty and reserve troops across the services, bulked up missile defense, increased operations in Afghanistan and more ships, planes and other equipment.

The bill is moving forward without an agreement in Congress to raise budget caps, which NDAA funding levels burst through.

That means some of the money authorized could end up not coming to fruition.

Indeed, in touting the bill's passage, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) acknowledged it busts spending caps by more than $80 billion and called on Congress to use the bill's figures as a baseline for budget negotiations.

"The overwhelming, bipartisan support for this defense budget should serve as a reminder of the troubling state of our military today—and an acknowledgement that the Budget Control Act-level of defense spending is insufficient and unacceptable," he said in a statement. "Nearly two months into fiscal year 2018, we cannot delay any longer in appropriating these vital, additional resources for our military. Any further delay in doing so would be an abdication of Congressional responsibilities."

Outside of money, the bill makes a number of reforms to the military’s space operations — though it does not go as far as the House’s original proposal for a Space Corps.

The bill would require the deputy secretary of Defense to contract a federally funded research and development corporation not associated with the Air Force to study the possibility of creating a Space Corps in the future.

It would also eliminate the principal adviser for space, the Defense Space Council and the deputy chief of staff for space operations, which lawmakers felt added unneeded layers of bureaucracy.

The bill would further give Air Force Space Command sole authority for organizing, training and equipping all space forces within the Air Force.

One controversial provision that remained in the NDAA after negotiations was one that would have let the Pentagon sign off on unapproved medical devices and drugs for emergency use on the battlefield, rather than the Food and Drug Administration.

But the House and Senate passed a separate bill to change that provision. That bill would instead expand the situations for which the FDA has authority to approve the emergency use of unapproved medical treatments and seeks to expedite the approval process.

Updated at 3:43 p.m.