The U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Friday, authorizing $585 billion for the military in 2015. The resolution, which passed by a vote of 89-11, allocates $521.3 billion to fund the base Pentagon budget, and another $63.7 billion is dedicated to military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.
“Our military makes brave and honorable sacrifices every day in defense of the nation and our interests around the world," Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said. "This legislation ensures that America keeps its promise to care and provide for our service members and their families with necessary benefits as well as proper training and adequate resources to carry out assigned missions effectively and safely."
The authorization, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 4 and is now headed to President Barack Obama's desk, is one of the core funding measures Congress passes each year. The Senate passed it ahead of schedule for the 53rd straight year Friday despite some last-minute hurdles and partisan disagreements and concerns about a potential government shutdown.
In addition to paying troops, funding military operations, building weapons and air and naval craft and paying for the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the NDAA also authorizes the provision of $5 billion to train Iraqis to fight against the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"American airpower had changed the momentum on the ground somewhat and given moderates in the region an opportunity to regroup, but ISIS cannot be defeated without an opposing force to take the fight to it on the ground," Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, according to the AP. "To do that, our Arab and Muslim partners must be in the lead because the fight with ISIS is primarily a struggle within Islam for the hearts and minds of Muslims."
The authorization also contains controversial provisions that will convert 250,000 acres of federal land into wilderness areas. The provisions arose this week as a major point of contention for Republican senators like Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
"Expanding the national park service is a disastrous idea," Coburn said, according to the Hill. "And the reason it is disastrous is our parks are falling apart."
The Republican contingent attempted to amend the authorization to remove the language, but in the end it remained in the final version, the Hill reported. The final version of the authorization does not overturn an existing prohibition on transferring detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to other facilities despite Obama pushing for such a change before he leaves office.
Additionally, the authorization will add a $3 copayment on prescription drugs for members of the military while reducing other benefits for troops and their families, including lowering by 1 percent the off-base housing allowance for service members. But it offsets those cuts by giving troops a 1 percent raise.