House passes annual defense policy bill with historic military justice reforms

The bill makes sexual harassment a crime under Uniform Code of Military Justice.

December 08, 2021, 12:18 AM

Late Tuesday night, the House approved a massive must-pass $770 billion defense policy bill that authorizes funding levels and provides authorities for the U.S. military.

The final vote was 363-70.

The vote was a strong bipartisan one, even though several House progressives withheld support given some of their criticisms of U.S. military policy and the increase in defense spending authority, which they had hoped to cut.

The bill includes funding to support a 2.7% pay raise for both military service members and the DOD civilian workforce.

It also includes historic reforms to how the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault and harassment cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The bill removes the commander of a military command from "decisions related to the prosecution of covered crimes," including sexual assault. It also makes sexual harassment a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Notably, the compromise bill dropped proposals that would have required women to register for the draft, as initially planned, due to Republican opposition.

PHOTO: The White House is seen at sunrise, from the South Lawn Driveway, in Washington, U.S, December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
The White House is seen at sunrise, from the South Lawn Driveway, in Washington, U.S, December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Tom Brenner/Reuters

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it's expected to pass in the coming days. After it passes in the Senate, the bill will head to the president's desk to be signed into law.

When all is said and done, Congress will have voted out the defense policy bill for 61 consecutive years.

The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, or the NDAA, authorizes $770 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, and it increases the Pentagon's budget by roughly $24 billion above what President Joe Biden had requested.

Congressional leaders announced the compromise bill earlier Tuesday, just hours before the House was set to vote on the measure. Tuesday's compromise comes after efforts to make amendments to an earlier version of the bill stalled in the Senate.

The measure also provides funding intended to counter China and bolster Ukraine, as well as money for new aircraft and ships.

It also calls for an independent commission to analyze the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

It Increases parental leave to 12 weeks for all service members for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.

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