Biden signs U.S. defense budget bill with call to keep USFK troops intact

December 27, 2021

President Joe Biden on Monday signed into law a U.S. defense budget bill that calls on his administration to maintain the troop level of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at the current level.

The National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, less than two weeks after the Senate approved it in a 89-10 vote. The House of Representatives had also approved the bill earlier this month.

“On Monday, December 27, 2021, the President signed into law: S. 1605, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022,” the White House said in a press release.

The law allocates US$768 billion in defense spending for the fiscal year 2022, up about 5 percent from a year earlier. The amount also marks the highest in U.S. history.

The signed law calls on the U.S. government to strengthen American alliances with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, including South Korea, to advance the country’s “comparative advantage” over China amid their growing competition.

To this end, it urges the U.S. government to maintain “the presence of approximately 28,500 members of the United States Armed Forces” deployed to South Korea.

The initial draft of the law had also sought to limit the U.S. government from using its defense spending to reduce the number of USFK troops, but such restrictions were later removed in the deliberation process.

U.S. Congress had identified a lower limit for USFK troop levels in its National Defense Authorization Acts for three consecutive years since 2019.

Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House armed services committee, has said the clause that had prohibited the use of the U.S. defense budget to reduce the number of USFK troops had been removed because it was no longer needed.