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Congress approves defense bill, sends to president

Posted December 22, 2010

— Congress gave final approval Wednesday to legislation that authorizes the Pentagon to spend nearly $160 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this budget year without major restrictions on the conduct of operations.

The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes after Democrats agreed to strip several provisions, including one that would have allowed gays to serve openly in the military.

"The controversial aspects of this legislation have been removed," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

The provision that would have overturned the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was approved as a standalone bill and President Barack Obama signed it into law on Wednesday.

The House, which approved the bill last Friday, had to consider it again as the Senate cut out a provision on payments to World War II claims to residents and survivors in Guam.

The Democratic delegate from Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, said the Senate eliminated the payments because some senators objected to the cost. She said elimination of the money could adversely affect U.S. plans for a military buildup on the island.

North Carolina Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan included provisions in the bill that could prevent the Navy from locating a landing field in the northeastern part of the state and would help families affected by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

The water provision requires the Navy to assist in studies to determine the source of contamination and to prevent the Navy from disposing of contamination-related claims made by families until the studies are completed.

The landing field provision requires the Navy to examine the suitability of existing military airfields on the East Coast for an outlying landing field before any money can be spent on a new one.

Congress considers the defense authorization bill to be its primary chance to sway Pentagon policy. While it does not transfer money into Defense Department coffers, it does serve as a blueprint for the defense appropriations bill by authorizing spending levels.

This year's bill agreed to $725 billion in defense programs, including $158.7 billion for overseas combat.

Among its numerous provisions is a 1.4 percent pay raise for troops and a guarantee that children of service members can stay covered under the military's TRICARE health care program until they are 26 years of age.

The bill also would continue restrictions on the Defense Department's ability to close Guantanamo Bay, including prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the U.S.

This year's bill is mostly noteworthy for its broad bipartisan support during wartime. On Thursday, a White House review of war progress in Afghanistan suggested that tough combat would continue for years and that troop withdrawals in 2011 would probably be small.

Unlike during the height of the Iraq War when anti-war Democrats tried to use the legislation to force troops home, the House passed the defense bill Friday with almost no debate on Afghanistan.

Other provisions in the bill include:

— Up to $75 million to train and equip Yemeni counterterrorism forces;

— $205 million for a program with Israel to develop its "Iron Dome" defense system;

— $11.6 billion for the development of the Afghan security forces, and $1.5 billion for Iraqi security forces.

In a related development Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who represents many Boeing employees, secured an agreement from Chairman Carl Levin of the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on a mix-up in the competition for a new Air Force tanker.

Levin, D-Mich., made a commitment for a January hearing. The Air Force mistakenly gave rival companies sensitive information that contained each other's confidential bids in the long-standing, multibillion dollar competition between Boeing and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), parent of Airbus.

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  • Juncyard Dec 22, 2010

    Gunny462, I don't agree with everything PBO does, I think he is to weak and doesn't know how to deal with trash like the current political forces in his own party as well as the trash leading the GOP.

  • Juncyard Dec 22, 2010

    LOL....didn't that mental midget Bush stop fighting in Afganistan to go of playing Rambo in Iraq? How mush did that cost, and how much is it costing us still because we're still in Afganistan right now because of Bush's incompetence....

  • GWALLY Dec 22, 2010

    Americans...STILL footing the bill for worldwide security!!!! Nomobama spends more than Bush...and TOTAL silence from the liberal/entitlement democrats...can you say hypocrites...??????

  • gunny462 Dec 22, 2010

    No mention that the military raise is the lowest since 1961 or that they just froze the housing allowance. Typical. Thank you to ppl like Juncyard who have no idea what they say but agree to everything PBO says and does.

  • Worland Dec 22, 2010

    I seem to remember our socialist Over-Lord whining when GW was spending $10B during the surge, yet the liberals seem quiet as Obama is spending $13.5B a month on a mini-surge. Of course, every defense bill under the Party of Food Stamps has been laden with pork like "cash for clunkers" and research on drunk monkies.

    Amazing since all Obama has managed to do in Afghanistan with his $13B a month is slaughter our troops in unprecidented numbers.

  • Gary_too Dec 22, 2010

    Well Junkyard, I guess what you are saying is that your socialist comrades would not even bring this up for a vote until they got 'shellaced' in the last election?

  • Juncyard Dec 22, 2010

    Finally the GOP puts country first.