President Donald Trump signed a historic and massive $700 billion defense budget into law, Tuesday. Now, Congress has to figure out how to fund it.
That’s right. The defense spending bill that the President of the United States signed into law still needs legislative action by Congress to make it comply with current law.
Why? That’s because the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual spending bill that, in part, funds the military, blows way beyond budgetary caps put in place by Congress in 2011. Currently, the defense budget cap is $549 billion.
Without additional special legislation, the newly signed defense bill would trigger sequestration—automatic spending cuts.
To add fuel to the fire, the U.S. government is only operating thanks to a Continuing Resolution, a temporary way to fund the government that has become the new normal, and has yet to agree on a budget, which includes military spending.
“The defense bill authorizes major investments in our military’s greatest weapon of all, its warriors,” said Trump at a bill signing ceremony at the White House. “Now Congress must finish the job by eliminating the [budget cap requirements] and passing a clean appropriations bill. I think it’s going to happen.”
The NDAA includes a 2.4 percent pay raise for American service members, increases the military footprint, funds new ship and aircraft projects, and new missile defense spending. It also sets aside almost $66 billion for a fund used for overseas contingency operations, which is how the U.S. funds the wars it fights.
However, the bill that was signed Tuesday will go nowhere if Congress doesn’t vote to raise the budget caps that have been in place since 2011.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “Congress and the White House must expeditiously work to negotiate a bipartisan budget agreement to secure this critical funding for our military instead of again forcing the Department of Defense to tread water by passing another Continuing Resolution.”
“A multi-year budget agreement providing substantial, sustained growth in defense spending is the only way to give our men and women in uniform the resources they need to keep us safe.”
Lawmakers, including McCain, and analysts alike, have credited a tailspin in military readiness to funding the defense budget. Currently, the Air Force is short more than 1,000 fighter pilots, just a few Army brigades are ready for combat, and more service members are being killed in training accidents than by combat.