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National Defence Authorization Act signed by Obama: favors close security relations with India

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Washington: India and United States are set to enhance defence cooperation substantially in the days to come. President Barack Obama is trying to further strengthen India and US defence relations and the latest US defence bill is set to make the bond all the more powerful.

Latest reports suggest that President Obama has signed a $618 billion defence policy bill National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill is going to be another major hallmark set to bring the two nations further closer.

The latest defence policy bill that has been christened as the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) was ratified by the Congress and the Senate with veto-proof majorities earlier this month. Now the same Act has been signed and approved by President Obama in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he is currently vacationing.

President Barack Obama is greeted as he arrives on Air Force One at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, April 20, 2016. The president begins a six day trip to strategize with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, England and Germany on a broad range of issues with efforts to rein in the Islamic State group being the common denominator in all three stops. Greeting President Obama are Ambassador Joseph W. Westphal, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Linda Westphal, Wife of U.S. Ambassador, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Governor of Riyadh, Engineer Ibrahim Al-Sultan, Mayor of Riyadh Region, Fahad Al-Saheel, Royal Protocol - Airports In-charg. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The new Act makes India as a close ally and partner. The highlights of the bill released by Arizona Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain said it “enhances security cooperation between the United States and India”, under the ‘Supporting Allies and Partners’ section.

The leaked details suggest that the the NDAA will also “refocus security assistance to Pakistan on activities that directly support US national security interests and conditions a significant portion of funding on a certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistani territory.”

Nonetheless, the Act will ensure that Obama will not be able to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay facility before leaving the White House. The NDAA lays restrictions on transferring detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay facility, ensuring that Obama will not be able to fulfill his goal of closing it before he leaves office next month, Xinhua news agency reported. It authorises a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including a troop pay raise of 2.1 per cent, though Obama has only requested for a 1.6 per cent pay raise. It also calls for $3.2 billion more in base defence funding than Obama has requested, plus an additional $5.8 billion in White House-requested war dollars.

When it comes to the size of the Army and Marine Corps, the new bill authorises 476,000 active duty soldiers (16,000 more than requested) and 185,000 Marines (3,000 more than requested). After signing the bill on Friday, Obama said that it “authorises fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programmes, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe.”

However, “Congress again failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead and modernize military healthcare.” “Instead, the Congress redirects funding needed to support the warfighter to fund additional end-strength that our military leaders have not requested at a time when our troops are engaged overseas supporting the fight against the Islamic State and against Al Qaeda,” he added. On the campaign trail, US President-elect Donald Trump promised a massive military build-up, including boosting the Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers, increasing the Navy to 350 warships and adding 1,200 new Air Force fighter jets.

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