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ARLINGTON, Va. — The House and Senate armed services committees have agreed to an across-the-board 3.5 percent pay raise for servicemembers in 2005, as well as making permanent increases in deployment-related pays.

The pay provisions are part of the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill passed Wednesday night by the House Armed Services Committee; and a different version of the same bill passed last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Both bills add money to the Bush administration’s proposals for military heath care, especially for reservists and their families, and for force protection measures, including more armored Humvees and armor kits for other vehicles for troops in Iraq.

Both committees authorized $422.2 billion for the Department of Defense in 2005, the full amount requested by the Bush administration and $20.9 billion more than the amount authorized by the Congress for fiscal 2004.

But because the administration’s 2005 proposal did not include funding for operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, the House bill also adds an additional $25 billion in “emergency” money for those missions.

HASC Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said Wednesday that the supplemental funds are supposed to last from Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2005, to January 2005, when DOD officials have said they will submit an additional supplemental request to Congress.

The HASC bill also proposes a plan that would mandate an increase in the Army’s end strength by 30,000, adding 10,000 soldiers each year over the next three years, as well as an increase of 9,000 active duty Marines over three years.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld granted the Army a temporary increase of 30,000 troops earlier this year. But HASC members want the increase codified in law.

The SASC bill, however, supports Rumfeld’s request that the Army increase not be made permanent, and has no provisions to increase the Marine Corps.

The next step in the authorization process is for the full House and Senate to vote on the bills reported out of the respective committees.

The Senate is expected to take up the defense bill next week, according to SASC staff members. No date is set for the House.

Once each chamber passes its version of the defense authorization bill, any differences between the two bills must be reconciled, with members meeting in a conference.

The resulting “conference report” is submitted to each chamber for a final vote.

Only after the full House and Senate have passed identical versions of the authorization bill can it be sent to the president for signature into law as the defense authorization act.

But while the defense authorization bill provides the authority for defense policies and programs, it doesn’t actually fund the measures. That’s the function of the defense appropriations, which is a separate piece of legislation under the province of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, not HASC and SASC.

The defense appropriation process for fiscal 2005 is still in its beginning stages: hearings just finished in the House and Senate, and the committees will begin putting together the bills next week.

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