The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed in the House on Thursday, is high on Congress's list of unfinished business as the 2013 legislative session reaches its final days. Congress cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the House and Senate Armed Services Committees reached a compromise on the bill's contents.
The Senate will take up the bill next week before its December 20 deadline. Failure of the Senate's part to pass the NDAA for the first time in over 50 years could mean a gap in funding for the Pentagon until lawmakers are able to take it up again in January.
While the NDAA's primary function is to fund the military, each year it also contains a significant amount of policy provisions. The NDAA has gained a reputation in recent years as a vehicle to pass controversial policies, as members of Congress and the president are often unwilling bear responsibility for interrupting Pentagon funding and soldier pay. Since 2011, the NDAA has contained provisions for the indefinite detention of American citizens.
Within the 1105 pages of this year's Pentagon authorization are major changes to rules governing the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, new policies for the military on sexual assault in their ranks, and the establishment of a "Combat Records Research Center."