​Obama defense bill to facilitate transfer of prisoners from Gitmo

​Obama defense bill to facilitate transfer of prisoners from Gitmo
Barack Obama has signed a bill to speed up the repatriation of prisoners from Guantanamo in a possible step towards the closure of the facility. He also put pen to legislation that will reduce the possibility of another government shutdown.

The American President signed the legislation into law while holidaying with his family in Hawaii.

"I am encouraged that this act provides the executive greater flexibility to transfer Guantanamo detainees abroad, and look forward to working with the Congress to take the additional steps needed to close the facility," Obama said in a statement. The president said that the continued operation of the prison was detrimental to the US economy and its relationship with its allies.

The bill still does not allow for the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners onto US soil. Obama has voiced his opposition to this on a number of occasions.

“For the past several years, Congress has enacted unwarranted and burdensome restrictions that have impeded my ability to transfer detainees from Guantanamo,” Obama said in a written statement. As part of his presidential campaign in 2008 Obama pledged to take steps to close down the facility, however, he has made little headway during his time in power.

Although a number of the restrictions governing repatriation have been lifted, the process remains slow and fraught with difficulties. As there is no set procedure for the monitoring of repatriated detainees in their new country, the US often has to conduct negotiations to keep track of the former prisoners.

As well as smoothing out the process for transferring detainees from Guantanamo, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 will also make changes to the military budget. As part of the act the Pentagon will be granted a budget of $526.8 billion for 2014.

Moreover, the document also provides for changes in how the military justice system deals with cases of sexual assault. This comes in response to an increase in offenses over the last couple of years. The Pentagon estimated that last year over 26,000 members of the US military were affected by sexual assault and rape.
The threat of another shutdown

Obama also signed into law economic measures aimed at avoiding another possible government shutdown after January 15 – the date when Republicans and Democrats will have to negotiate a number of spending bills for 2014.

The legislation raises the $967 billion limit for 2013 spending to $1.012 trillion next year and $1.014 trillion in 2015, and reduces the deficit by about $23 billion over 10 years.

The government shutdown in October this year paralyzed the US for 16 days and could cost the US up to $50 billion, Moody’s analytics estimates.