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Senate passes sweeping defense policy bill

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Internashonal

Senate passes sweeping defense policy bill


Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Reuters

The dome of the US Capitol is reflected in a window on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in April.

The Senate voted on Wednesday to pass a critical defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets the policy agenda and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense annually.

The final negotiated version of the NDAA for fiscal year 2024 authorizes $886 billion in national defense funding, an increase of $28 billion over last year.

It is expected to be approved by the Senate with bipartisan support and would next go to the House, with lawmakers hoping it will pass through both chambers before the end of the week. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 87 to 13.

The sweeping legislation authorizes a 5.2% pay raise for members of the military as part of a wide range of provisions related to service member pay and benefits, housing and childcare.

In a move that sparked anger from some lawmakers, the billwill include a short-term extension of a controversial law that permits warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals. Supporters argue it is a critical tool for safeguarding national security, but it has come under criticism from some lawmakers over alleged misuse.

The law, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, enables the US government to obtain intelligence by collecting communications records of foreign persons based overseas who are using US-based communications services.

The searches are governed by a set of internal rules and procedures designed to protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, but critics say that loopholes allow the FBI to search the data it collects for Americans’ information– as opposed to from foreign adversaries – without proper justification.

Tensions have flared on Capitol Hill over the issue with some conservative Republicans expressing significant frustration over the extension’s inclusion in the defense policy bill. The extension will run through April 19.

Congressional leaders have said that they hope to negotiate consensus legislation to make changes to FISA authorities aimed at preventing abuse that could pass both chambers in the new year.

According to a summary of the bill from the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee, the bill would also put in place a watchdog to oversee US aid to Ukraine in the form of a special inspector general as well as set up a collection at the National Archives of government records on unidentified anomalous phenomena, commonly known as UFOs, that will be accessible to the public.

The legislation does not include two controversial provisions related to abortion and transgender health care access, which were in the House defense policy bill that passed this summer.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.



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