Obama signs $633B defense bill

President Obama signed the $633 billion defense authorization bill into law on Wednesday, despite objecting to several key portions of the bill.

The president signed the sweeping 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) while in Hawaii after the White House had threatened to veto the legislation over restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay and a number of program reversals from the Pentagon’s proposed budget.


"I am empowered either to sign the bill, or reject it, as a whole. In this case, though I continue to oppose certain sections of the act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore," Obama said in the statement accompanying the sweeping Pentagon policy bill.

The defense authorization bill, which has now passed for 51 straight years, sets Defense Department policy and authorizes $633 billion in defense spending. The bill includes new sanctions against Iran, an increase of 1,000 Marines to guard U.S. embassies around the globe, plans to study a new East Coast missile defense site and military healthcare coverage of abortions in the case of rape and incest.

The final conference committee report passed the House 315-107 and the Senate 81-14 in December.

Obama had threatened to veto both the House and Senate versions of the bill, and the legislation that ultimately reached the president's desk includes several elements that the Obama administration objected to, such as rolling back cuts to the Air National Guard, stopping some proposed fee increases for Tricare and killing funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS).

Obama addressed several of the provisions he objects to in the statement released by the White House, saying that the bill calls for "unnecessary spending" on programs that the Pentagon does not want.

“Restrictions on the Defense Department's ability to retire unneeded ships and aircraft will divert scarce resources needed for readiness and result in future unfunded liabilities,” Obama said.

He also condemned the new "conscience" clause in the legislation, which says that military chaplains cannot perform actions contrary to their religious beliefs. The House-passed legislation had included a ban on same-sex marriages on military bases in addition to the conscience clause, but that provision was stripped from the final bill.

"My administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of ‘Don't ask, don't tell,' and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that," Obama said in the statement.

The signing statement also noted that a fix for the NDAA was included in the “fiscal cliff” legislation also signed by the president Wednesday, in order to correct language in a section dealing with Russia and the New START treaty that one congressional source warned would have “allowed the Russians to dictate U.S. nuclear arsenal policy.”

Obama said the provision, as it was previously written, would “impede the fulfillment of future U.S. obligations agreed to in the New START Treaty” and “hinder the executive's ability to determine an appropriate nuclear force structure.” He said he was “pleased” the language was amended in the fiscal-cliff bill.

— Carlo Muñoz contributed.

This story was updated at 8:51 a.m.