President Obama on Friday signed the 2011 Defense authorization bill, even while voicing strong opposition to two sections dealing with detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Among its numerous provisions is a 1.4 percent pay raise for troops and a guarantee that children of service members can stay covered under the military’s TRICARE health care program until they are 26 years of age.
Elsewhere in the bill, lawmakers agreed to $725 billion in Defense programs, including $158.7 billion for overseas combat.
Actual funding levels will be determined when Congress passes an appropriations bill for 2011. The Defense Department, along with the rest of the government, is operating on a continuing resolution at 2010 spending levels.
The provisions objected to by Obama place restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners — either to the United States or to foreign countries. Transfers to the United States would require the president to deliver a complete disposition plan to Congress, and lawmakers would have to be given time to review the plan. Transfers to foreign countries would face similar restrictions: the Secretary of Defense will first have to certify to Congress that a country meets “strict security criteria” before any detainees could be transferred there.
The bill also prohibits any spending on detention facilities in the U.S. for present-day Guantanamo detainees.
Obama said in a statement that the Guantanamo provisions were a dangerous and unprecedented challenge to executive branch authority, but that he was signing the bill because of its huge importance to military operations in 2011.
“Nevertheless, my Administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future,” the president’s statement said.
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