Biden signs $768B defense policy bill that supersized his original Pentagon request

The bill calls for $740 billion for the Defense Department, instead of the $715 billion request by Biden.

Republicans panned the plan as insufficient to keep pace with inflation and military advances by China and Russia, despite Biden's request for a military spending increase above current levels. Most Democrats on Capitol Hill agreed and both the House and Senate supported further budget increases in their versions of the defense bill.

The bill authorizes $768 billion for national defense programs, which includes the Pentagon and nuclear weapons programs overseen by the Department of Energy.

The defense policy bill doesn't allocate any money. Lawmakers need to strike a deal to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

The Pentagon and other federal agencies are not funded at the previous year's levels. Congress rejected as not enough Biden's proposal for total funding that was lower than the level that was proposed.

Billions more will be spent on weapons procurement, including more planes and ships, than the Pentagon requested.

The final bill has been hailed by top Democrats as a number of legislative victories, including an amendment to the military justice system to handle sexual assault and other crimes. Private funding for cross-state National Guard deployment is not allowed in the final legislation.

The chair of the House armed services said there was a lot to be proud of. The National Defense Authorization Act focuses on what makes our country strong: our economy, diversity, innovation, allies and partners, democratic values, and our troops.

Republicans see the legislation as a conservative policy win because of what was included in the compromise bill, but also provisions that were scuttled in negotiations.

The final bill received more votes from Republicans than from Democrats.

The bill's "crucial funding increase" and focus on competition with Beijing and Moscow was praised by the top House armed services Republican.

Our work is not done. Rogers said that the nation faces unprecedented aggression and threats from near-peer adversaries, namely China and Russia. "Combating these threats will continue to be our number one priority as we look ahead to FY23."

GOP lawmakers cheered a provision that bars the military services from discharging service members solely for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine, in addition to seeing their proposed $25 billion budget increase adopted.

Conservatives scored a victory when they torpedoed a proposal to require women to register for a military draft. The expansion of the Selective Service system was included in both the House and Senate bills, but Republicans won the concession to strike it from the final deal.

The Democrats supported the creation of a Pentagon office dedicated to fighting extremists in the military, but the Republicans excluded it.

The final bill did not include more expansive anti-extremism provisions or a broader rewrite of the military justice system that would have removed commanders' authority to prosecute all felonies.

The White House issued a lengthy signing statement, laying out Biden's objections to implementing certain provisions after the bill's enactment.

Provisions that bar the administration from transferring prisoners to other countries is one of the things Biden objects to.

The defense bill has provisions that make it harder to close Gitmo. The White House argued that the limitations would make it more difficult to comply with court orders, and that they would make it harder to negotiate with other countries for the transfer of prisoners.

Biden urged the Congress to eliminate the restrictions as soon as possible.

The Pentagon can use open-air burn pits in military contingency operations outside of the US if it chooses, thanks to a provision in the bill.

Biden, who believes that exposure to burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015, said in the statement that he would request Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin seek his approval before using the exemption.

The executive branch could be forced to reveal critical intelligence sources or military operational plans to Congress if there are too many reporting requirements. The provisions include a Pentagon notification to Congress in writing of any military cooperation or intelligence shared with the Taliban, a report on equipment and property that was left behind or destroyed in Afghanistan, and a report from the director of national intelligence on Iran's military capabilities.

Biden said he would comply with congressional reporting requirements but would do so in a way that protects classified information.