In the context of procurement programs – the buying of tools and weapons we “need” to keep our troops safe – the NDAA contains some slight recognition that we probably don’t need to be spending at the same levels forever. After a few years of base budget funding of procurement on the north side of $110 billion, the requests have started to level off at about $100 billion. (This is compared to an appropriation of slightly less than $80 billion for procurement in fiscal year 2003 when we were actually fighting a war.)
But despite this recognition that weapons spending can’t keep growing forever, the NDAA demonstrates the trouble with the way Congress sees our Pentagon spending priorities.
This year’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed Congress without a hitch last week, is a bit less controversial than it’s been in prior years, but it’s worth noting the thing did pass, and it comes with a few kinks worth noting. In The Capital has a nice roundup of what’s in the bill, such as a rider that prohibits the transferral of Gitmo detainees to the U.S.
President Obama exempts US citizens from indefinite detainment
then On the last day of 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act which, amongst other things, allowed for the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of terrorism.
now Obama signed a policy directive today that exempts US citizens from that provision in the bill (Section 1022, if you’re keeping track). Here’s the fact sheet released by the White House. source
» Some nuance: Although the language in the bill as signed did permit for US citizens to be indefinitely detained, it did not mandate this. Obama actually said at the time that he wouldn’t implement the law such that US citizens would face this possibility, so his signing today of this directive is in line with what he’d pledged. Our take: While this development will surely please Obama’s base, we’re scratching our heads as to why the White House announced it on the day of what’s become the most important primary in the Republican nominating contest so far (Michigan). It’ll likely get completely lost in the news cycle amidst all the primary coverage, which would seem to blunt its political utility. Color us baffled.
This is pretty basic political maneuvering and the biggest problem is that it almost always works because most people either don’t know or don’t care how their political system actually functions. The President was saddled with a lose-lose situation where he either seriously harmed American defense policy (political suicide), or passed offensive legislation knowing that it would cost him political capital. To all of you here lamenting that you ever voted for this ‘corporate shill’, congratulations: you are the result the Republicans were hoping for. They get the law they want, they get the weakened Presidential candidate they want. And many of you just don’t seem to see that. You don’t have to like your country’s two-party system, but it pays to be able to understand it so that you can recognize when it’s being used like this.
Much longer comment at the link, but the overall point Mauve_Cubedweller suggests: Republicans played a very clever political game, and made it look like Obama was at fault for the most controversial passages in a very large defense authorization bill, to the point that any softening of the passages didn’t matter, because, ultimately, he signed the bill. Do you buy this explanation?
My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.
Barack Obama • Speaking specifically about the indefinite detention rules in the National Defense Authorization Act, which were changed specifically to prevent the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents suspected of terrorism, before the law was passed by Congress. “My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law,” he also noted. The president is fighting two schools of thought on the matter — a number of human rights activists are worried about the ramifications of what they see as unconstitutional, while law enforcement and intelligence officials say the changes will greatly complicate their job. Obama goes far enough as to call the passage where the controversial language is included “unnecessary.”
Today I have signed into law H.R. 1540, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.” I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed. In hundreds of separate sections totaling over 500 pages, the Act also contains critical Administration initiatives to control the spiraling health care costs of the Department of Defense (DoD), to develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, to build the security capacity of key partners, to modernize the force, and to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide.
The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world. (read more here)
Do you guys buy his explanation? Did Obama have to sign this bill the way it was presented to him?
These politicians from both parties betrayed our trust, and violated the oath they took to defend the Constitution. It’s not about the left or right, it’s about our Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights, there is no America. It is the Crown Jewel of our Constitution, and the high-water mark of Western Civilization.
thenoobyorker says: My understanding was that they modified it enough to satisfy some of the president’s wants while giving it the authority needed to pass congress. It just seems like a another compromise in order to pass.
» SFB says: That’s what it seems like to us, too. Just enough compromise so that something gets passed, but not enough so that it makes the changes toothless. Will be curious to see some deeper analysis. — Ernie @ SFB
While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counter-terrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.
White House spokesman Jay Carney • Regarding the White House’s decision not to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which they changed their tune on after changes that make it so detainees would be allowed to go through civilian court. Carney emphasizes, however, that the broader bill is very important: ”This legislation authorizes critical funding for military personnel overseas,” he says, “and its passage sends an important signal that Congress supports our efforts as we end the war in Iraq and transition to Afghan lead while ensuring that our military can meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
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