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Obama signs sequestration delay, defense bill

Jan. 3, 2013 - 09:15AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 3, 2013 - 09:15AM  |  
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A vacationing President Obama has signed the controversial measure that delays pending cuts to projected Pentagon spending and the 2013 military policy bill, the White House said.

From Hawaii, Obama reviewed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which extends tax breaks for most Americans and raises rates on high earners while delaying big cuts to planned domestic and defense spending.

He ordered his signature be placed via the autopen on that bill, which steers the nation around the fiscal cliff.

The fiscal cliff bill's two-month sequestration delay sets a new March 1 deadline for passage of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures, the amount needed to turn off the defense and domestic sequestration cuts. If Congress and Obama again fail to do so, sequestration would take effect March 27, according to the law.

Efforts to cobble together those deficit-cutting components will take place at the same time Obama and lawmakers are engaged in what is expected to be a bitter fight over raising the nation's borrowing limit.

The White House also shipped to Hawaii a copy of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which it had threatened Obama would veto over terrorist detainee language. Obama physically signed the NDAA, according to a White House pool report.

The policy bill clears the Pentagon to spend $633 billion on aircraft, ships and vehicles. Notably, the NDAA clears the Pentagon to enter into multiyear procurement deals on several programs, including for Army CH-47 helicopters, Navy DDG-51 destroyers and V-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

The policy act, finalized Dec. 18 by a House-Senate conference committee, also limits DoD's ability to get more involved in the biofuels industry and places restrictions on its plans to develop a military-only unit to conduct espionage, long the bailiwick of the CIA.

The NDAA places the development of a new U.S.-based missile shield on a slower track than its GOP backers would like. Sources expect a new fight over the proposed East Coast missile shield this spring and summer, when lawmakers begin work on the 2014 Pentagon policy bill.

The NDAA clears the Pentagon to spend $552.2 billion in base budget monies and another $88.5 billion on ongoing global wars and other operations.

The total amount is $1.7 billion above the Obama administration's 2013 Pentagon budget request, which arrived on Capitol Hill earlier this year.

The conference panel dubbed the legislation "an incremental step to address the $46 billion decrease when considering where the president proposed national defense [spending] would be for fiscal year 2013 in last year's budget," according to a summary of the compromise bill released late last month.

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