By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 – President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act today, while acknowledging “serious reservations” about parts of the act, particularly provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.
“I have signed the act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families and vital national security programs that must be renewed,” Obama said in a statement released today.
The $662 billion act also contains critical initiatives to control spiraling health-care costs within the Defense Department, develop counterterrorism initiatives abroad, build the security capacity of key partners, modernize the force and boost the efficiency and effectiveness of military operations worldwide, he noted.
It increases active-duty and reserve pay by 1.6 percent and governs Defense Department activities from procurement to military personnel policy.
However, “the fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” the president emphasized today.
Of particular concern are provisions he said restrict options available to counterterrorism professionals and interfere with operations that have kept the United States safe.
Obama said the act undermines efforts within the last several years to develop an effective and sustainable framework to deal with suspected terrorists. This framework, he said, “allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations.”
“The results achieved are undeniable,” the president said. “Our success against al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people.”
Obama said he opposes initiatives by some in Congress that could undermine these successes. Although he initially had threatened to veto the bill over language he said could hamper ongoing efforts, he later agreed to changes that were negotiated.
“Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people,” he said.
Moving forward, Obama said his administration will interpret the provisions in a way “that best preserves the flexibility on which our safety depends and upholds the values on which is country was founded.”