Congress approves spending bill with 3.5 percent raise for servicemembers
Stars and Stripes October 13, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va. — Democrats and Republicans came together over the weekend to iron out their differences over the National Defense Authorization Bill, resulting in a $445.6 billion piece of legislation that will now go to President Bush for signing.
The bill includes an across- the-board 3.5 percent pay raise for all men and women in uniform.
And worried about servicemembers stretched thin by repeated deployments in Iraq and elsewhere, Congress also boosted the Army’s end strength by 20,000 and the Marine Corps’ by 3,000 by the end of October 2005, the end of the government’s fiscal year.
Other key provisions include:
¶ Making permanent the increased rate for imminent danger pay from $150 to $225 per month.
¶ Making permanent the increased rate for family separation allowance from $100 to $250 per month.
¶ Extending several special pays and bonuses for active-duty members and reservists.
¶ Elimination of out-of-pocket housing expenses.
¶ $10 billion for military construction and housing.
¶ Enhanced Tricare benefits for reservists and family members.
¶ Six months of coverage made permanent for all personnel separating from active duty.
¶ Elimination of Social Security offsets to the Survivor Benefit Plan, a decades-old law that reduces benefits under the military’s Survivor Benefit Plan by one-third for military widows after they attain age 62.
¶ More than $2 billion for force protection measures, including armor, munitions, communications and surveillance programs.
¶ The legislation contains provisions to eliminate procurement obstacles and field commercially available technology as quickly as possible — the goal is no more than 15 days from a combatant commander’s request to the contract award.
¶ An increase of $572 million to produce up-armored Humvees at a rate of 450 per month.
¶ An additional $100 million for Vehicle Add-On Armor Kits.
¶ An additional $40.8 million for night-vision rifle sights.
¶ Authorizes $8.9 million for the Advanced Mine Detector, a lightweight, handheld, ground- penetrating radar.
¶ A provision that will reimburse families who purchased body armor for servicemembers not issued the equipment during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
¶ Authorizes a multiyear procurement of 100 new aerial refueling tankers, replacing an Air Force leasing deal with Boeing that has caused enormous controversy both within the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
¶ Requires a Stabilization Strategy on Iraq — President Bush must produce a report on his strategy for stabilizing Iraq, including his strategy for standing up professional Iraqi security forces.
When Bush will sign the document into law has yet to be determined, White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said Tuesday.