US will strengthen military "like never ever before," says US President Donald Trump after signing a $716 billion defence policy bill that also temporarily halts sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.

US President Donald Trump signs the
US President Donald Trump signs the "John S McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019" at Fort Drum, New York, on August 13, 2018. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump signed a $716 billion defence policy bill on Monday that authorises military spending, includes softened controls on US government contracts with China's ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, and suspends sale of F-35 fighter jets to NATO ally, Turkey.

Trump signed the law at the US Army's Fort Drum base in upstate New York on his way back to Washington after a 12-day working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey. 

The bill was named for one of Trump's political critics, the ailing US Senator John McCain of Arizona, but he did not mention McCain's name.

Trump said the bill "is the most significant investment in our military and our war-fighters in modern history."

"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 US will make a critical investment in nuclear weapons.

The bill gives the Pentagon a $638 billion base budget for defence-related programmes linked to the Department of Energy plus an additional $69 billion for possible overseas operations.

It also authorises 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.

Thinned-down China measures

Some lawmakers wanted to use the bill to reinstate tough sanctions on ZTE to punish the company for illegally shipping products to Iran and North Korea, but the restrictions included in the final National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that passed Congress were weaker than earlier versions of the bill.

Trump has lifted an earlier ban on US companies selling to ZTE, allowing China’s second-largest telecommunications equipment maker to resume business and putting him at odds with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Leaders of US intelligence agencies have said they are concerned that ZTE, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and some other Chinese companies are beholden to the Chinese government or Community Party, raising the risk of espionage.

On Tuesday, China's commerce ministry said that it would conduct a comprehensive assessment of the contents of the policy.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said that the US should treat investors with objectivity and fairness.

Softened measures

The White House opposed putting stronger measures against the companies in the bill, and the measures were softened before lawmakers held their final vote.

The NDAA does strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews proposed foreign investments to weigh whether they threaten national security. That measure was seen as targeting China.

Separately, the NDAA authorises spending $7.6 billion for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp .

Prior to the ceremony Trump watched an air assault demonstration by US troops at Fort Drum. 

F-35 sales to Turkey halted

The bill 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 defence system.

Turkey's removal from the F-35 programme 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 programme, saying it could cause a disruption in a supply chain for the US military and its partners while increasing other programme costs.

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan has more.

Turkey has been in the F-35 programme since 1999. 

The Turkish defence 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.

Ankara took delivery of its first two F-35 fighter jets in June. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies