Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 6 News List

US Senate passes US$447bn defense spending package

AP , WASHINGTON

The US Senate late on Wednesday approved a US$447 billion defense spending bill that covers only part of the Pentagon's upcoming war costs but gives the military a pay raise and increases troop levels.

Lawmakers voted 97 to 0 on the bill authorizing Pentagon and Energy Department defense programs for the new budget year that begins in October.

The measure includes US$25 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration plans to submit a supplemental budget at the start of the next calendar year, after November's election, that is expected to seek at least an additional US$25 billion for the two ongoing military campaigns.

In a move opposed by the White House and Pentagon, senators also included a provision to add 20,000 troops to an Army stretched thin by the war in Iraq, the global war on terror and other commitments around the world. The size of the Army would increase by about 4 percent to over 500,000.

The authorization bill, generally mirroring one passed a month ago in the House, includes an across-the-board 3.5-percent pay raise for military personnel.

There is also US$10.2 billion for a missile-defense system and billions more for such programs as the F/A-22 Raptor aircraft, Joint Strike Fighter and DD(X) destroyer program.

In voting earlier on Wednesday, senators passed an amendment requiring US President George W. Bush to report to the Republican-controlled Congress on his efforts to stabilize Iraq. But they rejected one that would have forced him to give an estimate of how many US troops will remain in the violence-plagued country a year from now.

The Republican-controlled chamber also rejected a number of amendments, all offered by Democrats. One related to the prison abuse scandal that would have declared all US officials bound by anti-torture laws and required Pentagon reports on interrogation techniques, the number of detainees denied prisoner-of-war status, Red Cross findings on US military prisons and a schedule for trying terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Another proposal was to limit the growth of US military and civilian contractors helping Colombia fight its drug war. Opponents said the full increase from 400 to 800 troops and 400 to 600 civilians was needed to keep up progress in the war.

The bill now goes to conference to be reconciled with the one passed by the House.

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