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. US Congress Approves $420 billion For Defense
Washington DC (UPI) Oct 11, 2004
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have agreed to add $19.3 billion to the 2005 defense budget over last year's budget, but put new requirements on programs dealing with the Iraq war.

The Pentagon will get $420.6 billion in 2005.

The budget authorizes an increase in the size of the Army by 20,000 soldiers and 3,000 additional Marines, a boost in numbers that is necessary to fight concurrent wars that are exacting a heavy toll on ground forces.

The committees also authorized the administration's request for another $25 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In response to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the House and Senate conference committee included a provision that requires the defense secretary to prescribe policies to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners and to report to Congress on those policies.

The Pentagon established conflicting rules for prisoners in Iraq and prisoners captured in other conflicts, applying Geneva Conventions protections to the former and not to the latter. Confusion about those policies has been cited in courts-martial and in investigations as contributing to the abuse of prisoners.

The committees also agreed to a provision expanding criminal jurisdiction over federal employees and contractor personnel who are working for the Defense Department overseas, another direct result of the Abu Ghraib abuse, some of which was carried out by contractors who are not covered by the military justice system.

To improve protection for soldiers and Marines in Iraq, the committee earmarked another $572 million for new up-armored Humvees that are better able to take a blast from a landmine. The committees also set aside $100 million for bolt-on armor for regular Humvees already in Iraq.

The bill makes permanent an increase in combat-zone danger pay of $225 a month; it had been temporarily increased by Congress from $150. Congress also made permanent a family separation allowance of $250, up from $100.

The combat pay increase costs the Pentagon roughly $25 million more a month, the reason the Defense Department last year opposed making the increase permanent.

The committees also included a provision that directs the Pentagon to reimburse service members who purchased, or had another person purchase on their behalf, any protective, safety or health equipment for use while deployed in connection with the war in Iraq, Afghanistan or on homeland defense.

Many service members bought their own advanced body armor at a cost of nearly $2,000.

The committees approved another $500 million in 2005 for the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, an effort that has proceeded fitfully this year, with thousands deserting their posts during heavy fighting in April and May.

They agreed to extend Defense Department healthcare benefits to reservists who are serving on active duty, and also allow military members who are 100 percent disabled from their service to draw both military retirement and disability benefits.

In a blow to the Boeing Co., the committees prohibited the Air Force from leasing its 767 refueling tanker. It authorized the Air Force plan to lease 100 aircraft for the purpose, but required that the contract be competitively awarded.

The twin wars also smoothed the way for a massive buy of major weapons platforms, including: $280 million for 27 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $272 million for aircraft survivability equipment infrared countermeasures; $334 million for Army Hellfire and Javelin missile systems; $905 million for Stryker vehicles for the sixth Stryker Brigade Combat Team; $292 million for 67 Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Program tanks; $506 million for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles; $4.1 billion for 24 F/A-22 aircraft for the Air Force; $3 billion for 42 F/A-18E/F aircraft for the Navy; $939 million for 11 C-130J aircraft for the Air Force, and $320 million for four KC-130J aircraft for the Marine Corps; $226 million for two E-2C aircraft for the Navy; and $307 million for 53 JPATS trainer aircraft for the Air Force.

The conferees also approved the purchase and development of nine new ships: $2.3 billion for one Virginia-class submarine; $3.5 billion for three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers; $1 billion for one San Antonio-class amphibious ship; $68.4 million for two T-AKE auxiliary cargo and ammunition ships; $1.5 billion in funding for the development and construction of the first DD(X) destroyer; and $350 million in funding for the development and part construction of the first Littoral Combat Ship.

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