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Space force funding and largest troop pay increase in decade if Congress passes defense bill

The X-37B landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Oct. 27, 2019. (U.S. Air Force/Released)
December 10, 2019

Congress may have reached a defense spending compromise amid concerns it would not pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the first time in 58 years.

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on a compromise version of the NDAA, according to Reuters. The $738 billion defense bill is expected to pass before lawmakers leave Washington D.C. for the end of the year.

Those lawmakers reportedly faced a strong divide over policies favored by President Donald Trump. The divide between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate might have prevented a working defense bill, but lawmakers have agreed to move forward with the legislation.

The bill includes $658.4 billion for the Department of Defense, as well as the Department of Energy national security program. Another $71.5 billion is allocated to cover costs for ongoing military operations abroad, while $5.3 billion is set for emergency funding to repair damage from natural disasters.

Included in the defense spending is a 3.1 percent pay increase for military service members. The Senate summary of the bill called it the largest pay increase for troops in over a decade. 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers is another benefit favored by Democrats preparing the bill.

The bill also lays out funding for a sixth military branch, the U.S. Space Force, proposed by Trump. The new military branch is organized under the U.S. Air Force and grants the Secretary of the Air Force the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the branch. The formation of the branch includes the establishing of a Chief of Space Operations (CSO) to report to the Air Force Secretary and join the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The bill would also add sanctions against Russia and bar military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. Additional funding for Ukrainian military assistance has also been circled amid allegations Trump improperly held up Ukrainian defense aid meant to repel Russian military actions in Ukraine’s East.

China is also the subject of monitoring through the defense bill, as the NDAA will require reports on Chinese overseas investment and bilateral cooperation with the Russian government. The bill also provides defense funding for Taiwan and states support for Hong Kong protesters who have sought to preserve their relative autonomy from mainland China.

The proposed NDAA calls for additional mandatory sanctions on North Korea, including against the country’s coal, mineral and textile exports. Banks dealing with North Korea would also see new sanctions. The Pentagon must also maintain at least 28,500 troops in South Korea unless the Defense Secretary certifies a troop reduction is in the interest of national security.

Turkey would also face punishment for its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The proposed NDAA would continue to bar transfers of F-35 fighter jets to the Turkish military and would call on Trump to sanction Turkey over its purchase of the Russian military equipment.