Bill would give troops 3.1 percent pay raise
WASHINGTON — Troops would see a 3.1 percent pay raise under the $445 billion defense budget passed by the Senate for fiscal 2006 on Friday.
Senators also added $50 billion more for the war on terror, including $120 million more than the president requested for ballistic protection add-ons for vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill passed by a 97-0 vote after nearly a week of debate before the whole Senate. House and Senate officials still must negotiate a compromise bill before sending the 2006 defense budget to the president to be signed into law.
But both chamber’s versions include the pay raise for all active-duty personnel and would renew a number of existing enlistment and specialty bonuses.
In addition, the Senate-backed bill would help Guard and Reserve recruiting efforts by creating a new prior-service enlistment bonus, a critical skills bonus, and new specialty pay provisions for the part-time troops.
Among the health care changes, the Senate bill would expand Tricare benefits to the children of troops killed in overseas conflicts. It also creates a new initiative to study combat-related stress disorders and identify ways to treat and prevent them.
The measure also assigns $18 million for assessment of soldiers with blast-related injuries.
An additional $70 million from 2005 levels would be set aside for child care and other family assistance services for active-duty and Reserve personnel.
The Senate measure put restrictions on the treatment of detainees who are suspected terrorists — a provision that has drawn a White House veto threat and is expected to be a major source of contention in the negotiations with the House.
The budget bill applies to the new fiscal year, which began last week, but likely won’t become law until mid-November. When it is finally adopted, all of its provisions would be retroactive to Oct. 1.
In his budget proposal, President Bush had backed the 3.1 percent pay raise for military personnel, and requested only a 2.3 pay increase for other federal employees. But House members approved a 3.1 increase for all federal employees in an earlier budget bill. The Senate has not yet taken up that issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.