President Donald Trump signed into law Monday H.R. 5155, the fiscal year 2019 John McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), authorizing a $716 billion budget, a pay raise for troops and a boost in military end strength.

Vice President Mike Pence introduced the president on stage at Ft. Drum, N.Y., home of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

The budget includes more aircraft and ships than originally requested by the Pentagon, a 2.6 percent raise for troops beginning in January and an increase in military end strength by 15,600 members. It is the earliest Congress has completed the NDAA in over two decades, according to the White House.

President Donald Trump signed the fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act into law Aug. 13, 2018 at Ft. Drum, New York. Photo: C-SPAN
President Donald Trump signed the fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act into law Aug. 13, 2018 at Ft. Drum, N.Y. Photo: C-SPAN

Trump in his speech noted that the bill will authorize 77 new F-35 joint strike fighters, along with full funding for the B-21 Raider bomber. He also name-checked 13 new battle force ships, to include a fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, three additional Littoral Combat Ships, 135 “brand new, beautiful” M-1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, over 3,000 joint light tactical vehicles and new Apache and Black Hawk helicopters.

“We will replace aging tanks, aging planes and ships with the most advanced and lethal technology ever developed. And hopefully, we’ll be so strong we’ll never have to use it, but if we ever did, nobody has a chance,” he said.

Trump also named artificial intelligence and space as key priorities within the FY ’19 NDAA. Pence officially announced the move to create a sixth military branch known as Space Force last Thursday at the Pentagon. The Defense Department that day released its final report to Congress laying out a roadmap to potentially achieve that goal, pending congressional approval (Defense Daily, Aug. 9).

“Our adversaries have already begun weaponizing space,” Trump said, citing attempts to “disrupt vital communications” and jam electronics. “We’ll be getting them very shortly, … We’ll be so far ahead of them in a very short time, your head will spin.”

Signing the NDAA will give the U.S. military “the firepower they need to win any conflict quickly and decisively,” he added. The authorized funds will need to be appropriated by Congress before they can be used.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, and members of the joint chiefs of staff were present at the signing. U.S. representatives in attendance included Republicans Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Dan Donovan (N.Y.), Joe Wilson (S.C.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), whose district includes Ft. Drum.

This fiscal year’s bill is named after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has been away from Congress since December while battling brain cancer.

The measure passed the House by a vote of 359-54 and the Senate by 87-10. Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday: “This measure continues to rebuild and repair our military while making needed reforms in the Pentagon.”

The bill also “takes important steps to confront the aggressive behavior of Russia, China, and others,” he added, noting, “It is now essential that we follow this bill with matching appropriations before the beginning of the fiscal year.”