William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021

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William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2021 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 116th United States Congress
Public lawPub.L. 116–283 (text) (PDF)
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 6395 by Adam Smith (D-WA) on March 26, 2020
  • Committee consideration by Armed Services
  • Passed the House on July 21, 2020 (295–125)
  • Passed the Senate with amendment on November 16, 2020 (Voice Vote)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on December 3, 2020; agreed to by the House on December 8, 2020 (335–78) and by the Senate on December 11, 2020 (84–13)
  • Vetoed by President Donald Trump on December 23, 2020
  • Overridden by the House on December 28, 2020 (322–87)
  • Overridden by the Senate and became law on January 1, 2021 (81–13)

The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395)[1] is a United States federal law which specifies the budget, expenditures and policies of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for fiscal year 2021. Analogous NDAAs have been passed annually for 59 years.[2] The act is named in honor of Representative Mac Thornberry,[3] who served as either the chair or the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry retired from Congress at the end of the congressional session.[3][4]

The $740 billion bill includes pay raises for America's soldiers, modernizations for equipment, and provisions to require more scrutiny before troops are withdrawn from Germany or Afghanistan. President Donald Trump had threatened to veto the bill because it did not include a repeal of 1996 legislation shielding internet companies from being liable for what is posted on their websites by third parties. The bill also includes a provision to limit the president's use of emergency declarations to divert military construction funds to finance the expansion of the Mexico–United States barrier.[5][6] Another provision within the act would require the military to rename bases that were named after figures from the Confederacy. The act also contains multiple anti-money laundering provisions and effectively bans anonymous shell companies.

The bill passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities on December 11, 2020. On December 23, President Trump vetoed the bill. The House and Senate voted on December 28, 2020, and January 1, 2021, respectively, to override the veto; this was the only veto override of Trump's presidency.[7]

Legislative history[edit]


Senator Mitt Romney's (R-UT) amendment to restrict President Trump's ability to reduce U.S. military presence in Germany failed. Senator Jeff Merkley's (D-OR) amendment requiring federal law enforcement uniforms to identify an individual and their agency, limit their activities to federal property and the immediate surrounding area unless a governor or mayor requests more assistance and to publicly disclose the number of personnel deployed and what activities they are carrying out did not get a vote.[8] The Senate voted 23–77 against a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to reduce the defense budget by $74 billion.[9]

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill with a veto-proof 295–125 vote on July 21, 2020.[10] Two days later, the Senate passed its version of the bill (S. 4049) 86–14.[8] The final version of the bill was agreed on by the House on December 8, 2020, and the Senate on December 11, 2020.[11][12]


The bill was presented to President Trump on December 11, who vetoed it on December 23, because it renames military bases that honor Confederate officers, and because it does not repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies from being liable for what is posted on their websites by third parties.[13][14][15][16]

Veto override[edit]

The House of Representatives voted 322–87 to override the president's veto on December 28.[17] After Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate would vote on December 30 on whether to override the president's veto,[17][18] Senators Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) said they would delay this using a filibuster, in hopes of forcing a vote on the CASH Act (which would increase stimulus check amounts).[19][20] The motion in the Senate to take a vote on a veto override passed 80–12 on December 30, followed by cloture by Senator McConnell, preventing further debate.[21] The Senate voted 81–13 to override the veto on January 1, 2021.[22]


The $740.5 billion bill authorizes $636.4 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, $25.9 billion for national security programs within the Department of Energy, and $69 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations account, a war fund that is not subject to budget caps.[8] As an authorization bill, these amounts are non-binding.

The bill also includes a provision to limit the use of emergency declarations to divert military construction funds to an annual $100 million.[5][6]

The bill also contains numerous anti-money laundering provisions. The act introduces a requirement for companies to disclose their ultimate beneficial owners to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), thus effectively banning anonymous shell corporations.[23] The act also strengthened anti-money laundering regulations for the antiquities trade.[24]

The bill approved by the House[25] included a provision to require the executive to consult with Congress before invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, and blocked appropriations from being used for nuclear testing.[26] It also included an amendment introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and passed by the House 336–71 which "would let soldiers use cannabis derivatives like CBD", and would have reversed the Department of Defense's policy against cannabis derivatives if it became law.[27] The cannabis-related changes were not retained in the enrolled bill passed by both houses of Congress.[28] It also called for the establishment of a commission to rename military assets that honor Confederate officers.[29]

The bill also included an amendment originally offered by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) in the Senate version[30] with a limited ban on the transfer of bayonets, grenades, weaponized tracked combat vehicles, and weaponized drones to police departments, as well as requiring law enforcement to be trained in de-escalation and citizens' constitutional rights.[8][31]

The bill includes a provision creating a Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America to develop a plan to "remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America from all assets of the Department of Defense."[32][33]

The bill includes the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America (CHIPS) Act, which aims to promote semiconductor research, development and manufacturing.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "H.R. 6395 (116th): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 - Text". GovTrack. December 15, 2020. Retrieved February 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Donnelly, John M. (December 17, 2020). "Congress girds for possible veto override votes on defense bill". Roll Call. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "William M. "Mac" Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021". United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. December 3, 2020. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  4. ^ Benning, Tom (September 30, 2019). "Rep. Mac Thornberry becomes 6th Texas Republican in House to announce retirement ahead of 2020 election". Dallas News. Retrieved January 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b Somin, Ilya (January 1, 2021). "Congress Overrides Trump Veto of Defense Bill that Includes Tight Constraints on Use of "Emergency" Powers to Divert Military Construction Funds to the Border Wall and Other Projects". Reason.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021. Section 2801 of the Act limits the president's ability to use "emergency" declarations to divert military construction funds to no more than $100 million per year for construction within the United States. This largely closes the loophole Trump tried to use to fund parts of his border wall project, using an emergency declaration he issued in 2019, thereby laying claim to some $3.6 billion.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b Demirjian, Karoun (December 3, 2020). "Bipartisan defense bill includes several rebukes of Trump's record as commander in chief". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 7, 2021. The bill contains several repudiations of Trump’s use of the military on the home front as well. It limits the amount of military construction funding that can be diverted to domestic projects via a national emergency order to an annual $100 million — a far cry from the $3.6 billion Trump attempted to divert to his border wall project in 2019. It sets a ceiling of $500 million for overseas projects.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ Ewing, Philip (January 1, 2021). "Congress Overturns Trump Veto On Defense Bill After Political Detour". NPR. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d Zilbermints, Regina (July 23, 2020). "Senate passes bill with plan to change Confederate-named bases over Trump veto threat". TheHill. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  9. ^ Gould, Joe (July 23, 2020). "Progressive effort to cut defense fails twice in Congress". Defense News. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  10. ^ Haley Byrd (July 21, 2020). "House passes $740 billion funding bill that would remove Confederate names from military bases". CNN.
  11. ^ Zilbermints, Regina (December 2, 2020). "GOP chairman says repeal of tech shield not in defense bill despite Trump veto threat". TheHill. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  12. ^ Lejeune, Tristan (December 8, 2020). "House approves defense policy bill despite Trump veto threat". TheHill. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  13. ^ "Trump faces Dec. 23 deadline to veto – or sign – massive NDAA defense bill". Reuters. December 14, 2020.
  14. ^ Demirjian, Karoun (December 23, 2020). "Trump vetoes defense bill, teeing up holiday override votes in Congress". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  15. ^ Foran, Clare; Carvajal, Nikki (December 23, 2020). "Trump vetoes massive defense bill despite overwhelming GOP support". CNN. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  16. ^ Brown, Matthew; Vanden Brook, Tom (December 23, 2020). "Trump vetoes national defense bill, though Congress has votes to override". USA Today. Retrieved December 23, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Wilson, Kristin; Foran, Clare; Fox, Lauren (December 28, 2020). "House votes to override Trump's veto of defense bill". CNN. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Carney, Jordain (December 29, 2020). "McConnell signals Senate has votes to override Trump's defense veto". The Hill. 'The House voted to reapprove the conference report on this must-pass legislation. Today the Senate will set up a final vote for tomorrow, Wednesday, with this chamber to follow suit', McConnell said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.
  19. ^ Everett, Burgess (December 28, 2020). "Bernie Sanders to delay defense veto override in bid for $2,000 checks". Politico. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  20. ^ Pramuk, Jacob (December 29, 2020). "McConnell blocks $2,000 stimulus checks, then ties them to unrelated Trump demands on tech and election". CNBC. Retrieved December 30, 2020.
  21. ^ Barrabi, Thomas (December 30, 2020). "Senate moves toward override of Trump's NDAA veto". Fox News.
  22. ^ Carney, Jordain (January 1, 2021). "Congress overrides Trump NDAA veto". The Hill. Retrieved January 1, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Hall, Richard. "US passes 'historic' anti-corruption law that effectively bans anonymous shell companies". The Independent. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  24. ^ Small, Zachary (January 1, 2021). "Congress Poised to Apply Banking Regulations to Antiquities Market". New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  25. ^ Smith, Adam (December 23, 2020). "H.R.6395 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021". www.congress.gov. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  26. ^ Bender, Bryan (July 21, 2020). "House, Senate near NDAA endgame". Politico.
  27. ^ Andrew Whalen (July 21, 2020). "NDAA Amendment Would Let Soldiers Use Cannabis Derivatives Like CBD". Newsweek.
  28. ^ Kyle Jaeger (December 8, 2020). "Congress Cautions Military Leaders About Marijuana Punishments For Recruits In Defense Bill Report". Marijuana Moment.
  29. ^ Figueroa, Ariana (December 8, 2020). "Congress plans to strip Confederate names from U.S. military bases, including Fort Bragg". NC Policy Watch. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  30. ^ Inhofe, James M. (August 7, 2020). "S.4049 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021". www.congress.gov. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
  31. ^ Sec. 1053. Sale or donation of excess Department of Defense personal property for law enforcement activities. (b) Additional conditions and limitations (1) Additional training of recipient agency personnel required.— Subsection (b)(6) of section 2576a of title 10, United States Code, is amended by inserting before the period at the end the following: including respect for the rights of citizens under the Constitution of the United States and de-escalation of force. (2) Certain property not transferrable.— Such section is further amended— (A) by redesignating subsections (e) and (f) as subsections (f) and (g), respectively; and (B) by inserting after subsection (d) the following new subsection (e): (e) Property not transferrable.— The Secretary may not transfer to a Tribal, State, or local law enforcement agency under this section the following: (1) Bayonets. (2) Grenades (other than stun and flash-bang grenades). (3) Weaponized tracked combat vehicles. (4) Weaponized drones.
  32. ^ "H.R.6395 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021". www.congress.gov. January 1, 2021. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  33. ^ Beynon, Steve (December 4, 2020). "Defense bill directs $2 million to form commission, plan renaming of military bases honoring Confederates". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  34. ^ "CHIPS Act". National Institute of Standards and Technology. December 8, 2021. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  35. ^ Arcuri, Gregory (January 31, 2022). "The CHIPS for America Act: Why It is Necessary and What It Does". Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved July 20, 2022.

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