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WASHINGTON - A House panel’s fiscal 2009 defense appropriations bill would give stop-lossed troops a $500 monthly bonus and fund the 3.9 percent pay raise for all servicemembers proposed in separate legislation this spring.

The appropirations measure, coupled with the already approved defense authorization bill, sets military spending for the upcoming fiscal year. On Wednesday the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee announced its proposals for the funding, and sent the draft onto the full committee for a vote.

The $487.7 billion proposal is nearly a 6 percent spending increase from this fiscal year, but sits about $4 billion below White House requests.

Earlier this month a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., introduced legislation promising $1,500 a month extra to stop-lossed troops, and retroactive payments for any servicemembers kept on past their separation date at any time since 2001.

The appropriations bill would also make payments retroactive, but offer only a $500 monthly payout.

Pentagon officials estimated more than 120,000 troops have been kept on active duty past their separation date since 2002 under the stop-loss policy. That includes about 12,000 on active duty at the end of May.

The policy can keep servicemembers in the ranks after their enlistment is complete if they are deployed within 90 days of their separation date. Congressional researchers said stop-lossed troops average an extra six months of duty, and currently receive only the same military pay as their peers.

The committee’s appropriations proposal includes $608 million for military family advocacy programs, $617 million for brain injury and psychological health research, $450 million for medical facility upgrades and $987 million for military housing repair and construction.

It also requires the secretary of defense to report back to Congress early next year on the possibility of closing down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and relocating to alternative detention facilities in the continental United States.

House lawmakers already backed a 3.9 percent pay increase for troops starting in January as part of the defense authorization bill passed in May, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has supported an identical raise despite White House requests for a 3.4 percent increase.

Both of the budget bills still must pass the House and Senate before the pay raise and other spending provisions become law.

The bills do not set the pay raise for Defense Department employees, but the military’s increase is often used as the benchmark for setting that rate.


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