- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2019

President Trump signed into law a $738 billion defense authorization bill Friday night that formally creates the new Space Force branch of the military, grants a 3.1% pay raise to troops and provides up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to nearly all federal employees.

In a ceremony at a military hangar at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act in front of a military audience and defense hardware that included two F-35 fighter jets.

The Senate approved the measure on Thursday.

Mr. Trump called the moment “a watershed event,” noting that the U.S. has now spent nearly $2.5 trillion on defense since he took office.

“We’re making our military stronger and more powerful than ever before,” the president said. “There is no greater honor than to serve as your commander-in-chief.”

The defense measure authorizes the Space Force, the first new branch of the military since the Air Force was created more than 70 years ago. Gen. John Raymond is being appointed chief of operations for the Space Force and will have a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“With my signature today, you will witness the birth of the Space Force,” the president said. “That’s a big moment, and we’re all here for it. American superiority in space is absolutely vital.”

The legislation also authorizes the building of nearly 100 new F-35s, 155 Army helicopters, 165 Abrams tanks, two new Virginia-class submarines and one new aircraft carrier, among other equipment.

The president was also expected to sign a massive non-defense spending bill before midnight to avoid a government shutdown this weekend and to fund operations through September.

Mr. Trump departed after the signing ceremony for his Mar-a-Lago resort in southern Florida, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, their son Barron, and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The president plans to stay in Florida through New Year’s.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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