In an era of bipartisan agreement on austerity cuts to vital services and workers' benefits, military-industrial-complex spending will continue into the new year untouched.
President Barack Obama signed into law on Thursday the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2014 that allots $526.8 billion for the Pentagon's budget and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan—totaling nearly $607 billion in defense-related spending.
This is nearly $30 billion more than was agreed to in the bipartisan federal budget deal that was also signed by Obama on Thursday.
“The passage of a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that calls for $30 billion more for the Pentagon and allied agencies than is contained in the recent budget deal passed by both houses of Congress is just the latest indication that defense hawks continue to live in their own world, untroubled by fiscal constraints,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
The bill does include an ease of restrictions on transferring Guantanamo Bay U.S. military prison inmates to the custody of other countries, while banning transfers to the United States, in what human rights advocates are calling a limited victory.
"We hope that President Obama will make swift use of the new NDAA provisions to actually act on his removal of the ban," reads an official statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has battled unlawful detentions at Guantánamo for the past 11 years.
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"Despite President Obama’s announcement in May that he would lift his self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen, seven months later not a single Yemeni has been released," the statement warns.
The bill also introduces limited protections for survivors of sexual assault within the U.S. military, yet keeps power over legal cases within the chain of command—which survivors and their advocates say is inadequate in a system where higher ranking service members have near impunity for sexual assaults perpetrated down the chain of command.
Critics slammed the NDAA as a military handout at a time of great human need.
"The bill is a massive spending program on the war economy with no justification in a time of austerity and limited security threats," writes D.S. Wright for FiredogLake.
"Washington's spending priorities are upside down: continuing to fund the Afghan war and the taxpayer ripoff F-35 warplane while cutting funding for human needs," said Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, in an interview with Common Dreams