Over the past week, both houses of Congress approved a nearly $770 billion defense budget. The House passed the budget last week, and the Senate passed it Wednesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign off in the coming days.
Keeping with yearly tradition regarding the defense budget, the votes in Congress were strongly bipartisan. The Senate vote was 88-11, and the House vote was 363 to 70.
“While the process has been imperfect, I’m glad that bipartisan work has produced a bill that authorizes an increase in topline funding for our national defense,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday.
President Biden had asked for $745 billion, but Congress actually made the budget bigger. Included in the bill is:
- More cybersecurity measures
- A 2.7% salary increase for troops
- More military equipment
- Money to address issues in Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific region
“It provides our forces with the resources and support they need to defend our nation, makes historic reforms to help improve the lives of our service members,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said in a joint statement with committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released Wednesday. Sen. Inhofe added, “this bill sends a clear message to our allies — that the United States remains a reliable, credible partner — and to our adversaries — that the U.S. military is prepared and fully able to defend our interests around the world.”
The defense budget also sets the policy agenda for defense. This year, that includes changes to how the military handles sexual assault and harassment. Under the revisions spelled out in the bill, the military will take some authority for prosecuting sexual assault cases out of the hands of commanders and use independent prosecutors instead.
Efforts to change the military’s prosecution of rape and other sexual assaults have been building for years. According to Defense Department data, sexual assaults in the military rose 13% in 2018, and 3% in 2019.
Among the no votes to the defense budget in Congress was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). She had been pressing for further changes to the way the military deals with sexual assault allegations. However, her amendment was stripped from the final bill.