Obama Signs $633 Billion Defense Bill
President Barack Obama signed a defense bill for 2014 that is said to be worth $633 billion. There are concerns about the limits Congress imposed on his handling of terror suspects as well as lawmakers’ unwillingness to support the cost-saving retirement of old aircraft and ships.
President Obama threatened to veto the measure because of several issues with it but he relented because he couldn’t pick and select specific sections. The president said that he was concerned about restrictions on his ability to carry out his constitutional duties as commander in chief.
The president complained that the defense bill limits the military’s authority to transfer third country nationals being held at a detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan. He was also concerned about the restrictions on his authority to transfer terror suspects from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Obama said that the part of the bill that was connected to detainees in Afghanistan threatens to overturn the tradition of having experienced military commanders and national security professionals make decisions regarding the detainees in Afghanistan without the interference by members of Congress.
The president pledged when he took office four years ago to close the prison at Guantanamo but Republicans and some Democrats opposed it, which prevented him from fulfilling the promise. The law limits the president’s authority to transfer terror suspects to other countries or move them to the US.
President Obama still wants to shut down Guantanamo because he believes that it weakens national security by wasting resources. It damages the nation’s relationships with key allies and strengthens the nation’s enemies.
The White House will study the bill’s provisions and if they violate the constitutional separation of power, the president will implement them in such a way to prevent the conflict. The new defense bill also puts off the retirement of aircraft and ships. President Obama warned that such move could force reductions in the overall size of the military and the Defense Department faces cuts in spending.