By an overwhelming 88-to-11 bipartisan margin, the US Senate voted on Wednesday to approve the largest military budget in history, nearly $ 770 billion, some 25 billion more than what the Biden administration had asked for. .
The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last week by a similar bipartisan margin, 363-70, and it is now going to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.
The bill sets Pentagon policy and authorizes countless military programs, ranging from the development of nuclear weapons to a 2.7% pay rise for military personnel, both uniformed and civilian. Congress has yet to pass supply bills, but in the case of the military, much of it is a formality.
A National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has been passed annually by Congress for over half a century, and there has always been bipartisan support with huge margins. Whatever the differences between Democrats and Republicans, the two parties are united in their support for the military machine that drives the predatory policies of US imperialism.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) praised Democrats and Republicans who joined forces to pass the bill. “For the past six years, Congress has worked on a bipartisan basis to pass without fail an annual defense authorization act,” he said. “With so many priorities to balance, I thank my colleagues for working hard over the past few months, both on and off committee, to bring the NDAA to fruition.”
The bill authorizes spending of $ 740 billion for the Department of Defense, $ 27.8 billion for the Department of Energy, which builds and maintains US nuclear bombs and warheads, and nearly $ 400 million. dollars for the activities of other government agencies considered “defense-related”.
In addition to the enormous personnel costs of a military establishment comprising more than 1.3 million uniformed soldiers and 1.1 million reservists and civilian Pentagon employees, the NDAA calls for huge amounts to be invested in the purchase more warplanes, warships, tanks, armored vehicles and artillery, as well as the development of new weapon systems and technologies.
The highest material expenditure is an additional $ 6.8 billion to purchase 85 F-35 fighters built by Lockheed Martin, adding to the most lucrative arms deal ever awarded by the Pentagon.
Congress approved 12 more F / A-18 Super Hornet fighters than the Pentagon requested and five additional Boeing F-15EXs in addition to the 12 requested, as well as increasing the number of new Navy ships by 8. to 13, added to the existing fleet. fleet of nearly 500 ships, the largest in the world.
The U.S. Navy is larger than the navies of the next 13 countries combined, according to a 2015 estimate, when you consider the total tonnage of the ships it deploys, including 11 huge aircraft carriers and nine helicopter carriers, as many as the rest of the world combined. .
The strategic direction of the massive military bill is to prepare for war against Russia, China, or both. As the New York Times acknowledged: “The main objective of the legislation – shifting attention from land conflicts in the Middle East to a renewed focus on Beijing and Moscow – aligns with the foreign policy vision Mr. Biden outlined this summer. as he ended the United States’ 20-year war in Afghanistan. . “
The main changes in the NDAA following the White House’s request were to add even more funding for the surge against China and Russia. The bill authorizes $ 7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), an inter-agency effort directed against China, $ 2 billion more than the Pentagon initially sought. It authorizes $ 4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, directed against Russia, or $ 570 million more than requested, and increases military aid to Ukraine from the $ 250 million sought by the Pentagon to 300 millions of dollars.
NDAA is leading the development of a classified “Grand Strategy Regarding China” and several additional reports on Chinese military technology, military modernization and Latin America and the Caribbean activities.
The PDI includes $ 500 million to meet “unfunded needs” (essentially a slush fund for anything the military wants to do in the Indo-Pacific) and refocuses the PDI on activities “primarily west of the international deadline ”, according to an analysis. The language of the bill suggests that the IDP will increase well above the base spending level it sets out.
The NDAA is committed to maintaining Taiwan’s military capability and includes a “policy statement” that the United States will “resist a fait accompli” against the country – language that suggests American intervention in any military conflict between Taiwan. and China.
“We have lost a lot of ground to the Chinese as we have focused over the past 20 years on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and they have caught up with AI machine learning, l ‘hypersonic and many other things, “said Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats. “It’s important to me that we can regain the ground that we have lost.”
Congressional leaders have overruled objections from “progressives” in the Democratic Party that a Biden administration will begin to cut the inflated US military budget and make funds available for social needs. Instead, Congress passed the largest military budget in history, while social spending for Biden’s “Build Better” legislation is unlikely to pass this year, if ever.
The main opposition to the NDAA did not come from the “progressives” but from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who sought to reform the process by which the military judges the thousands of sexual assaults committed within its ranks each year. Under the current procedure, commanders have full control over the court martial process, deciding what charges should be laid, if any, who will be the jurors and who will be allowed to testify.
The final bill incorporated limited concessions on this issue, but Gillibrand demanded a completely independent set of military prosecutors outside the chain of command, which the Pentagon adamantly opposed. She and several Senate supporters voted against the final bill.
The bill also establishes an independent Afghanistan War Commission to “review” the 20-year US intervention that ended with this summer’s debacle, the collapse of the US puppet regime and the re-establishment of the Taliban in power. . The bipartisan panel, made up of equal numbers nominated by both sides, would exclude any member of Congress or official involved in American politics for the duration of the war.
The passage of the NDAA on Wednesday followed Tuesday’s vote to raise the federal debt ceiling by $ 2.5 trillion, necessary to maintain federal funding and regular debt payments, a vital step for reassure the financial markets.
The Democrat-controlled Congress thus tendered its two main constituencies, Wall Street and the military intelligence apparatus. As Democrats say they are powerless to enact any increase in national social spending, protect voting rights, or provide legal status for immigrant workers and youth, Congress acts like a well-oiled machine when it comes to interests of the ruling class.
Both for Pentagon clearance and for raising the debt ceiling, congressional leaders have devised bipartisan shortcuts that allow for swift passage of the two laws.
The debt ceiling was raised after an agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that allowed the bill to pass by simple majority without obstruction.
The NDAA was passed under a fast-track procedure designed by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate and House committees responsible for the military, who brought the legislation to both chambers without allowing for amendments or lengthy debate.
The two sides agreed to set aside a series of tactical disputes and amendments proposed for political posture by either senator. Several important political changes have been put aside at least temporarily, including the imposition of sanctions to block the construction of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, the repeal of the authorization to use military force against Iraq, adopted in 2002, and extending the project’s registration requirements to include women.