Senate approves $602 billion defense policy bill

The Senate Tuesday passed its version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, setting up a conference process between the House and Senate to merge the two dissimilar bills.

The Senate passed the bill by a 85-13 vote. Notable "nays" include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Ben Sasse, Nebraska.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., summed up the vote saying, "I'd like to criticize the 13 who voted against."

The bill contains major changes to the military's organizational structure, splits the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics into two jobs and requires women ages 18-26 to register for the draft.

This version of the NDAA would update Goldwater Nichols, a 30-year-old law governing military command structure, to give the Joint Chiefs chairman more responsibility with coordinating and planning for troop movement while still impartially advising the president and defense secretary.

The Senate's proposal to split the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics would create two jobs: one focusing solely on bringing more innovation to the Pentagon and the other solely focused on business. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has criticized this move,calling on lawmakers to "remember the Joint Strike Fighter's growing pains."

A provision to make women age 18-26 to register for the draft has come under intense debate. Heritage Action went as far as to urge the Senate to not vote passage of the whole defense policy bill over concerns on "differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission."

 

Passage of the Senate NDAA comes as President Obama threatens to veto both the Senate and House versions of the bill. His main objections include a personnel limit to the National Security Council, and prohibition on closing Guantanamo Bay, a major campaign promise.