The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act has a provision that would effectively block President Donald Trump’s attempt to significantly reduce US troops in Germany, a move the President said was because of Berlin’s failure to spend adequate amounts on defense.
The bill “prevents reduction in the number of U.S. forces stationed in Germany below 34,500 until 120 days after the Secretary of Defense submits an assessment and planning regarding the implications for allies, costs, military families, deterrence, and other key issues,” according to a summary of the NDAA conference report released by the House Armed Services Committee.
In late July the Trump administration said it would reduce the number of US troops in Germany from about 36,000 down to 11,900, saying that the repositioning of forces could start “within weeks.”
“We spend a lot of money on Germany, they take advantage of us on trade and they take advantage on the military, so we’re reducing the force,” Trump told reporters at the White House in July when the cuts were announced.
The legislation also has a similar provision regarding the approximately 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, prohibiting any reductions in US personnel until 90 days after the defense secretary certifies that certain conditions have been met.
The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The bill also could affect Trump’s efforts to reduce US troop levels in Afghanistan, requiring “the Administration to submit a comprehensive, interagency assessment of the risks and impacts before using funds to draw down U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan below 4,000 or current levels and again before drawing down below 2,000,” according to a summary of the NDAA released by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The legislation also includes provisions intended to address some of the controversies that emerged over the summer surrounding the federal government’s response to civil unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
The bill prohibits the Pentagon from transferring bayonets, lethal grenades, weaponized track vehicles and weaponized drones to tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies and police forces.
It also requires military or federal law enforcement personnel assisting federal authorities in responding to civil unrest to “visibly display” their names or other unique “individual identifier” and ”the name of the armed force, Federal entity, or other organization by which such individual is employed.”
Trump threatened to veto the NDAA on Tuesday unless Congress removes legal protections for social media companies in Section 230 as part of the bill, setting up a showdown with Congress over legislation that would give troops a raise and set defense policy.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, subsequently called Trump and told him that they weren’t going to have that fight. Inhofe also made clear that a provision that allows for renaming military bases that were named after Confederate figures is staying put.
But Trump demanded the protections be cut again on Thursday morning, accusing some of his party’s senators of looking to back out.
“Looks like certain Republican Senators are getting cold feet with respect to the termination of Big Tech’s Section 230, a National Security and Election Integrity MUST,” he tweeted Thursday. “For years, all talk, no action. Termination must be put in Defense Bill!!!”
The NDAA is likely to pass with a veto-proof majority, despite the lame duck President’s tweets.
In all the moments of Republicans not standing up to Trump, it was pretty clear they weren’t having the antics on Wednesday when it came to a bipartisan bill that sets policy for the Pentagon.
“I don’t think the defense bill is the place to litigate that,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune said Wednesday, adding that while he supports revising Section 230, that debate should move along a separate track.
“What I can tell you is, there will be enormous support for getting (the) defense authorization bill passed, and hopefully signed into law,” the South Dakota Republican said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Lauren Fox, Brian Fung and Manu Raju contributed to this report.