President Barack Obama signed the defense spending bill into law on Wednesday, authorizing $607 billion in defense spending. The law also includes provisions that make closing Guantanamo Bay detention facility very difficult.
Despite hard promises for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, President Obama has made it clear that he will authorize the defense bill along with the Guantanamo provisions.
According to Reuters, Obama stated “As I have said before, the continued operation of this facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists. It is imperative that we take responsible steps to reduce the population at this facility to the greatest extent possible and close the facility.”
The Republican legislators have been making tough partisan efforts to stop President Obama and Democrat legislators from succeeding in closing down the military prison and have been very opposing to the transfer of war prisoners and detainees from the prison to prisons in the United States.
However, Obama noted that the number of detainees at Guantanamo has been reduced by more than 85 percent, with 57 transfers in the last two years alone.
According to Reuters, Obama also said that if the ban on transferring prisoners is unconstitutional and collides with the separation of powers principle, the administration would “implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.” He added that he is very disappointed that Congress had “failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead, and modernize military healthcare.”
The earlier version of the bill had been disputed and Obama vetoed it, primarily on the way defense programs would be financed. Obama announced that he would sign this version, despite Guantanamo provisions, bearing in mind that Republican controlled Congress would override his veto. However, the administration does not exclude the possibility of Obama taking executive action and moving the detainees and closing the prison.
The most important part for the troops, however, is the renewal of specialty pay and bonuses, as well as a massive overhaul of the military retirement system. This new system will also give four in five service members a retirement benefit after they exit the service, as opposed to the current system that benefits only one in five.
The Congress is expected to pass defense appropriations for the fiscal 2016. This law is only part of the Congressional budget process. The legislators are set to pass the appropriations before the deadline of 11th of December, when the short term budget extensions expire.