US Senate nods to $700bn defence spending bill

WASHINGTON,

The US Senate overwhelmingly authorised $700 billion in defence spending Monday, a substantial increase over 2017 funding and nearly five percent more than President Donald Trump had requested.

The National Defence Authorisation Act of 2018 allows for increased spending on new F-35 fighter jets, ships and M1 Abrams tanks, raises military pay by 2.1 percent and authorises nearly $5 billion for Afghanistan security forces, including a programme integrating women into the country’s national defence.

$8.5M BOOST

It also authorises $8.5 billion to boost US missile defence — a full $630 million above Trump’s baseline request — at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea over its testing of nuclear devices and ballistic missiles.

The bill provides for $60 billion in war funding known as Overseas Contingency Operations, and boosted military enlistment figures by 7,000.

The legislation, one of the cornerstones of congressional bipartisanship over the decades, passed 89 to 8.

The House of Representatives passed its version in July, and the two chambers will now need to thrash out a compromise bill.

“It keeps faith with our men and women in uniform,” Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of the bill he shepherded through the chamber.

McCain was quick to point to the increasing number of training accidents within the military, saying the lack of force readiness was a result of ever-tightening budgets that left the army, navy and other branches depleted.

TRAINING

“My friends, more of our men and women in uniform are now being killed in totally avoidable training accidents and routine operations than by our enemies in combat,” McCain told his colleagues.

“Where is the outrage about this? Where is our sense of urgency to deal with this problem?”

The $700 billion is $91 billion beyond the spending caps outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act, which demanded a “sequestration” of military spending in order to rein in federal costs.

McCain said it was imperative that Congress lift the spending caps on a bipartisan basis in order to fully fund military operations.

The legislation also funds European security programmes with US allies, arguing that deterring “malign” Russian activities and aggression there “is an enduring function.”

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