- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The House yesterday approved a $512.9 billion military bill that addresses a host of concerns arising from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from combating makeshift roadside bombs to equipping more vehicles and troops with armor.

Passed on a 396-31 vote, the measure includes a plan to spend $50 billion for the first part of next year’s war costs.

“The theme of the bill this year was troop protection,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, the House Armed Services Committee chairman. “It gives the tools to the troops in the war on terror that they need.”

Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the committee’s top Democrat, said the measure “takes steps to ensure that our troops have the best equipment available.”

Despite that endorsement, Democrats were angry that Republican leaders prevented the House from debating some amendments, and they used procedural maneuvers to delay work on the bill for a few hours in protest.

At least one of those Democratic amendments would have addressed the status of U.S. troops in Iraq.

In a statement, the Bush administration praised the House for supporting the fight against terrorism but indicated significant concerns with several provisions, including proposals to increase the size of the armed forces and give the military a higher pay raise than the administration sought.

The bill sets Defense Department policies and plans spending for the military for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved its version of the bill. It also envisions $50 billion for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House bill plans $109.7 million for jamming devices that detect roadside bombs — known as improvised explosive devices — and prevent their explosion. It also plans $100 million for at least 10 manned surveillance aircraft to patrol roads where the bombs are prevalent.

Additionally, the bill would let the services spend far more money than Bush sought to continue putting armor on Humvees and providing body armor for troops.

The Pentagon would be allowed to spend more money on weapons involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. The bill also directs the Pentagon to increase the number of F-22 aircraft and of submarines being built.

At the same time, the bill would slice millions of dollars from plans for new weapons systems — the Joint Strike Fighter and the Future Combat System — as well as for the presidential helicopter and the ballistic missile defense program.

Against administration wishes, the bill says the Navy must have 12 aircraft carriers. It also requires the Air Force to maintain a fleet of 44 B-52 bombers until 2018 or until a comparable long-range strike aircraft is developed.

The administration objects to House plans for a 2.7 percent pay raise for military personnel, which is 0.5 percent above the president’s request. Additionally, it opposes a provision that would call for an increase of 30,000 personnel for the Army — to 512,400 — and 5,000 for the Marine Corps — to 180,000.


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