President Obama signed the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill (S.1356) last week ending a standoff with Congress over spending caps, at least for now.

The president had vetoed the bill agreed to by the House and Senate in October because it included $38 billion of base budget requirements in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The White House and most Democrats opposed this approach because they believed it circumvents the budget act to increase defense spending and could lead to significant cuts to nondefense programs.

The budget agreement provided relief from sequestration for both defense and nondefense budgets by providing an additional $80 billion equally divided between defense and nondefense in FY2016 and FY2017. In FY2016 the agreement raised the FY2016 defense budget by $25 billion and the OCO account by $8 billion.

After the president signed the budget agreement, the House and Senate passed by significant margins a revised defense authorization bill that aligned with the budget agreement and addressed the president's primary reason for vetoing the earlier bill.

In signing the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill the president said that “the Congress has now revised the National Defense Authorization Act to incorporate the new funding changes and has altered the funding authorization provisions to which I objected.”

The authorization bill provides almost $607 billion, including about $580 billion for total DoD, $18.6 billion for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program and $7.6 billion to meet the statutory requirements for DoD Concurrent Receipt payments. The bill includes a 1.3 percent military pay raise, reforms to military compensation and retirement, and significant reforms to defense acquisition.

However, the bill still includes a provision that prevents the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo, which the president also strongly objected to in his earlier veto statement. In a statement accompanying his signing of the revised bill, the president expressed serious concern that that this provision and other provisions concerning detainee transfers “violate constitutional separation of powers principles.”

The president indicated that he would act unilaterally stating “in the event that the restrictions on the transfer of detainees in sections 1031, 1033, and 1034 operate in a manner that violates these constitutional principles, my administration will implement them in a manner that avoids the constitutional conflict.”