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House 2021 defense bill requires Confederate bases renamed, limits Afghan troop reduction and more

The dome of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto/Zuma Press/TNS)
July 22, 2020

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which includes several provisions President Donald Trump may veto, such as renaming Confederate named military bases.

The approximately $732 billion defense bill passed in the house on a vote of 295-125 Tuesday. The broad defense bill covers a range of defense spending items, including a 3 percent pay raise for service members, but also includes a provision requiring the renaming of all U.S. military bases and infrastructure named after Confederate leaders.

The NDAA still needs to pass in the U.S. Senate, and some changes may be added as the two houses of Congress reconcile the differences in their defense budget bills, however, Trump has threatened in the past to veto the NDAA if it includes the base renaming measure.

A Tuesday White House statement indicated Trump’s opposition to a number of measures included in the defense budget, including the provision to rename bases. The statement indicated a recommendation Trump veto the legislation in its current form.

“The Administration strongly objects to section 2829, which would require renaming of certain military institutions,” the White House statement read.

The Senate version of the 2021 defense budget currently includes language establishing a commission to study the issue of renaming bases and determine a plan, cost, and criteria for renaming the bases. Once the commission determines its plan for renaming on the base renaming issue, the Senate bill sets out a three-year timeline for implementing the changes.

A summary of the House bill also lists measures to limit Trump’s ability to order U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan.

“This section would require the Administration to submit a comprehensive, interagency report and certification prior to a drawdown of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan below troop levels of 8,000 and 4,000,” the House NDAA language states. “The Secretary of Defense may waive the reporting requirement in this provision if it is vital to the national security interests of the United States or necessary due to an imminent and extraordinary threat to members of the United States Armed Forces.”

Similar reporting imposing restrictions on Trump’s planned troop reductions in Germany.

The White House statement also opposed the budget restrictions saying the measures “contravene the President’s constitutional authority as Commander in Chief.”

“This provision would restrict the President from discharging his Constitutional authority to reduce forces levels in
Afghanistan if he deems it necessary,” the White House statement continued. “It also would subordinate the President’s authority to the discretion of the officials whose concurrence would be required for the certification. Further, by requiring the concurrence of three military officers for the certification, the provision also would subordinate the Secretary of Defense’s discretion to the judgment of those military subordinates, upending the military chain of command and the principle of civilian control of the military.”

The House NDAA also includes language that limits the use of Pentagon funds for border wall construction by setting a cap on national emergency construction spending at $100 million for the domestic use and $500 million for overseas projects.

Other provisions in the House NDAA languages include the creation of special prosecutors to investigate sexual assault cases and other special instances and improve avenues for victims to report sexual assault in the military.

The House NDAA language also calls for chief diversity officer for the Department of Defense and creates a $1 billion Pentagon pandemic response fund.