Apart from spending enormous sums on the military and weapons for allies, the National Defense Authorization Act extends the surveillance authority that allows the FBI to spy on foreigners and U.S. citizens without a warrant.
Before plunging into the intricacies of the US budget policy, I would like to recall the statement made by US President Joe Biden in the fall of 2021 at the UN General Assembly, when he tried to convince the world community that the US infatuation with war had ended. “Going forward, the United States will no longer treat military power as an answer to every problem we see around the world,” Biden said. He wanted the world to believe that the United States was changing, and changing significantly. But now let’s return to the facts and figures, which show completely different things.
On December 13, the Upper House of the US Congress, the Senate, approved the country’s defense budget for the 2024 fiscal year in an 87-13 vote, which is also known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill received support from both major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties. Its final version authorizes $886 billion in national defense funding, a record amount for the United States over the past decade, over $28 billion more than last year.
This bill regulates everything from a 5.2% pay raise for American military service members to purchases of aircraft, ships and ammunition. It extends the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through the end of 2026, authorizing $300 million for the current fiscal year ending September 30, 2024. The document also prioritizes arms sales to AUKUS countries, includes measures to strengthen security partnerships within the alliance, and calls for cybersecurity cooperation with Taiwan to “protect military networks, infrastructure and systems.”
Moreover, the US National Defense Authorization Act calls on the Pentagon chief to develop a program to train, advise and build the institutional capacity of Taiwan’s military, requiring an independent study of the global economic consequences of Beijing’s military invasion or blockade of Taiwan. Such passages, enshrined in US legislation, are unlikely to go unnoticed in China or will help to ease tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
The remaining doubts that this act is aimed at active militarization of both the United States itself and its allies are dispelled by a statement made by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer before the vote on the bill. “This act ensures that America can defend itself against Russia, stand firm against the Chinese Communist Party, and ensures that the American military remains state of the art at all times, all around the world,” he said.
In addition, the Senate-approved NDAA extends the FBI’s controversial domestic surveillance authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by four months until April 19, 2024. In particular, security agencies are allowed to spy on foreigners and US citizens suspected of having links with them without a warrant. According to American human rights activists, this allows the FBI to conduct total surveillance of its own people.
Now the bill will go to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is also expected to be adopted without delay and will soon be signed by American President Joe Biden, who probably no longer remembers his peace promises made two years ago at the UN General Assembly.
Fernando Gallardo, political commentator, exclusively for the internet journal “New Eastern Outlook”.