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Senate Approves Defense Budget Authorization Bill

Senate Approves Defense Budget Authorization Bill

Congressional Report, November 12: Measure cuts "Buy America" plan

The U.S. Senate has given its final approval to a $401.3 billion defense budget that expands weapons programs, raises salaries for military personnel, permits leasing air refueling tankers, and drops a "Buy America" provision requiring "essential" military equipment to be purchased from U.S. suppliers.

By a vote of 95-3, the Senate gave the measure final approval November 12. The U.S. House of Representatives gave its final approval November 7 by a vote of 362-40. The bill now goes to the White House for President Bush's signature.

The bill authorizes fiscal year 2004 defense programs, but does not actually provide funding. Most of the defense funding comes from a $368 billion defense appropriations bill that was signed into law by President Bush on September 30.

The bill also lifts a ban on the research into low-yield nuclear weapons and authorizes $15 million for continued research into the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which is designed to penetrate deep underground bunkers.

The Air Force is authorized in the bill to lease 20 Boeing 767 aircraft as midair refueling tankers and to buy 80 more. The measure also authorizes $9.1 billion for the ballistic missile defense system, $6.6 billion for the construction of seven new warships, $4.4 billion for developing the Joint Strike Fighter and $3.5 billion for 22 F/A-22 Raptor jet fighters.

Included in the authorization bill is a 4.15 percent pay raise for military personnel, and it extends increases in combat and family separation pay. The bill also authorizes changes affecting civil service employees, which includes changes in hiring, firing and promoting civilian employees.

The final bill also scraps a provision originally approved by the House of Representatives that would have required the Pentagon to buy "essential" military equipment -- anything directly related to war fighting such as munitions -- from only U.S. suppliers.

The bill also authorizes $450 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction program -- which is the 12-year-old program called Nunn-Lugar by its Senate sponsors. The program secures and destroys weapons of mass destruction throughout the former Soviet Union.

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