(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
President Obama did some bill signings while on his Hawaii trip Thursday, including a two-year budget deal with Congress and a defense authorization bill that address the problem of sexual assaults in the military.
The budget agreement includes a reduction in across-the-board sequester cuts that had been scheduled to take effect, restoring some $63 billion over two years.
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The plan also includes a projected $85 billion in other budget savings.
Amid reports of increased sexual assaults among U.S. troops, the new defense bill changes the rules for military courts. Now, commanders will no longer be able to overturn convictions for sexual assault, as they have in the past.
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The law also requires a civilian review when commanders decline to prosecute accused assailants, and makes it a crime to retaliate against victims who report an assault.
Last week, Obama ordered military leaders to conduct a year-long review of their efforts to address the problem of sexual assault. Further action could be taken if progress is not made by Dec. 1, Obama said.
Overall, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 creates a military budget of $552.1 billion, as well as $80.7 billion for Afghanistan and other overseas operations.
Military personnel receive a 1% raise under the bill.
The bill is also designed to help assist programs to destroy chemical weapons in Syria and to transfer prisoners from the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to countries willing to take them.
In a signing statement, Obama said Congress still places too many restrictions on Gitmo transfers, and he will continue to work to try and ease them.