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Biden signs record military budget

US President Joe Biden has signed the country’s largest ever military budget into law. The $886.3 billion bill gives American troops a pay raise, but includes only a fraction of the military aid requested by Ukraine.

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Biden signed the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday, after it passed Congress with bipartisan support last week. At $886.3 billion, the bill allocates 3% more money to the Pentagon than last year’s NDAA, which came in at a then-record $858 billion.

Biden said that he signed the bill despite certain “concerns” with its contents. He condemned a section prohibiting the use of US government money to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay to prisons in the US or other countries, and criticized provisions that require the White House and Pentagon to hand over “reports and plans” to Congress for oversight.

The bill also reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until April. This act allows US intelligence agencies to conduct warrantless wiretapping of foreign communications, but the FBI has admitted to using it to illegally surveil American citizens more than 280,000 times in 2020 and 2021. Several Democrats and Republicans opposed its reauthorization, with Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, complaining earlier this month that it was inserted into the NDAA “without a vote or debate.”

The NDAA includes $300 million in military aid for Ukraine over the next year, which the Pentagon is to spend on procuring arms and ammunition for Kiev from private contractors. This program, called the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, is one of the mechanisms by which Biden has been bankrolling Ukraine’s military. It has been used to buy $3 billion worth of weapons to date.

However, $300 million falls dramatically short of the $61 billion in direct military aid that Biden has promised to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky under a separate $105 billion spending bill. This bill remains stalled in Congress, with Republicans vowing to block its passage unless Biden includes substantial changes to immigration law and measures beefing up security along the US-Mexico border.

The US spends more than twice as much on its military as it did 20 years ago. Former President Barack Obama is the only US leader in recent history to reduce military spending, bringing the Pentagon’s budget down from $752 billion in 2011 to $633 billion in 2015.

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