Obama signs laws delaying sequestration, establishing defense policy

President Barack Obama on Jan. 3 signed into a bill that would delay the deep sequestration budget cuts and also signed the 2013 military policy bill.

President Barack Obama on Jan. 3 signed into law a bill that would delay the deep sequestration budget cuts and also signed the 2013 military policy bill, the White House said.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) extends tax breaks for most Americans while raising rates on top earners. Significantly, the new law also provides a postponement of the Budget Control Act's sequester for two months, the White House said.

The president also signed H.R. 4310, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013" authorizing fiscal year 2013 appropriations and military construction, as well as other significant national security funding, the White House said.

The two-month sequestration delay establishes a March 1 deadline for Congress and the president to establish $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures in order to avoid defense and civilian agency sequestration cuts, reported Defense News. If they fail to produce such measures, sequestration would begin on March 27.

Obama also signed the defense authorization bill, which contains restrictions on transferring detainees out of military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, reports the New York Times. The president previously had threatened to veto it because the terrorist detainee language it contains runs counter to his wishes.

However, he attached a signing statement claiming that he has the constitutional power to override the limits in the law, the story said.

"Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all....Though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore," Politico quotes Obama as saying.

The authorization act enables the Defense Department to spend $633 billion on aircraft, ships and vehicles, the Defense News story said. Notably, the act clears the Pentagon to enter into multiyear procurement deals on several major programs, including for Army CH-47 helicopters, Navy DDG-51 destroyers and V-22 tiltrotor aircraft.

The act 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, Defense News said.

The NDAA clears the department to spend $552.2 billion in base budget expenditures and another $88.5 billion on continuing global wars and other operations, the story said.