Trump signs defense spending bill

Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) – President Donald Trump signed a $716 billion defense spending bill Monday.

In a ceremony at Fort Drum military base in New York, Trump expressed his pleasure for Congress’ quick approval of National Defense Authorization Act.

"We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before. And that’s what we did," Trump said.

He said with the new budget for 2019, the U.S. will make a critical investment in nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the defense policy bill.

It gives the Pentagon a $638 billion base budget for defense-related programs linked to the Department of Energy plus an additional $69 billion for possible overseas operations.

It also authorizes a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops, the largest in nearly a decade, as well as boost the size of the Navy and the ranks of the military by 15,600 active-duty troops.

It includes an amendment prohibiting sales to Turkey of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets until the Pentagon issues a report on Turkish-American relations in 90 days.

The report is expected to include an assessment of Turkey's participation in the F-35 program as well as the risks that would be posed by the country's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.

Turkey's removal from the F-35 program was taken out of the bill by the Congressional Conference Committee.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a letter to the Senate on July 7, opposed Turkey’s removal from the program, saying it could cause a disruption in a supply chain for the U.S. military and its partners while increasing other program costs.

Turkey has been in the F-35 program since 1999. The Turkish defense industry has taken an active role in the production of aircraft. Alp Aviation, AYESAS, Kale Aviation, Kale Pratt & Whitney and Turkish Aerospace Industries have been producing parts for the first F-35 fighter jet.

Turkey plans to purchase 100 F-35 fighter jets in the coming years.

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