The U.S. House is expected to pass the defense budget next week, drafted under former President Barack Obama’s tenure but featuring pet issues of Donald Trump, from precluding any spending on the closure of Guantanamo Bay to blocking any funds going into making the army a greener force.
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The US$578 billion Department of Defense Appropriations Act, to be passed later than usual and valid until September, is US$5.2 billion more than last years but only US$1.6 billion more than Obama had requested. Increases in defense spending have been frozen until the bill is passed.
Trump also suggested personally adding US$54 billion — over 10 percent of the budget — to the Defense Department, but his plan has not yet been drafted. Some of his portion may be used to pay for the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reported Federal News Radio.
The news comes as China announced Saturday its military budget this year would grow by about 7 percent, its slowest pace since 2010, despite signs it would raise it in reaction to aggression from Trump.
Last year, with China's economy slowing, the defense budget recorded its lowest increase in six years, 7.6 percent, the first single-digit rise since 2010, following a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit increases.
The U.S. defense bill includes funding for the armed forces, humanitarian and disaster aid, intelligence, retirement for Defense Department personnel and cooperation with other nations.
Among its long list of restrictions, the funding cannot be used “ for specified statutory and executive order requirements for the use of renewable energy,” “obligating or expending funds on certain green energy mandates” or enforcement of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
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Vegetarian options are also shunned — no funds can “revise the DOD Food Service Program Manual to exclude meat” — and several restrictions are outlined on buying non-U.S.-made equipment.
It also “contains provisions that prohibit or restrict funds from being used to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility; transfer the detainees to other countries; or construct or modify facilities for the purpose of housing the detainees.”
In other respects, though, the bill is generous. Funds for cooperation with Israel, mostly in missile defense systems, amount to over US$600.7 million — an increase in US$35 million. Funds for cooperating with Afghanistan total US$3.4 billion, Ukraine funds come to US$150 million and US$900 million will go to cooperation with Pakistan. Counter-drug activities, often conducted in conjunction with governments like Colombia and Honduras, amount to US$908.8 million.
Operations against the Islamic State group “and their affiliated or associated groups” are devoted a big chunk of the text and US$880 million to “ reimburse key cooperating nations for logistical, military, and other support, including access.” Any forces associated with the Iraqi government will be considered and vetted, but no money will go to “associations with terrorist groups or groups associated with the Government of Iran.” Total funding for so-called Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism, designated by Congress, is set at US$61.8 billion, a US$3.2 billion rise from last year.
Proposed amendments to add checks to the use of funds in operations in Syria and Iraq continuously failed by large margins. Proposals to prohibit spending money on operations in Libya “ in contravention of the War Powers Resolution” and on “the transfer of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia” also failed, as did an amendment “to prohibit warrantless searches of government databases for the communications of U.S. persons and to prohibit government agencies from mandating data security vulnerabilities in products or services for surveillance purposes.”
The bill was sponsored by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Trump endorser and supporter of the Iraq War, and the House subcommittee overseeing it was led by Ken Calvert, who authored the infamous E-Verify law that allows employers to check the immigration status of employees.