—Provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget and $80.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations, a reflection of deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in a conflict lasting more than a decade.
—Gives the administration additional flexibility to move detainees out of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to foreign countries. It stops well short of the president’s goal of closing the detention facility and bans detainee transfers to the United States.
—Authorizes funds for the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria
—Provides money to study the feasibility of establishing a missile defense site on the East Coast.
The legislation would strip military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and require that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal. The bill also would provide victims with legal counsel, eliminate the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases, and criminalize retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault. The legislation also would change the military’s Article 32 proceedings to limit intrusive questioning of victims, making it more similar to a grand jury.
Obama didn’t specify what other reforms he would consider to address sexual assault if the military review doesn’t meet his standards. The Senate is still debating a contentious proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would take away authority for prosecuting accused attackers from military commanders. The White House says Obama hasn’t taken a position on the bill, which has been vigorously opposed by the Pentagon, creating a split within the administration.
Hagel said in a statement shortly after Obama announced his orders that “we share his commitment to doing whatever it takes to solve this problem.” Hagel said he is pleased with the changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that were made by Congress and said he’s already been making some of the changes required.