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Senate Panel Approves Pay Boost
Military.com | By Christian Lowe | September 14, 2007The senate panel charged with funding the U.S. military approved a 3.5 percent pay raise Wednesday, adding $118 million to fund military personnel over the Bush administration's budget request for the fiscal year beginning October 1.
The Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee approved an increase in Army end-strength of 13,000 Soldiers, a Marine Corps 9,000 leathernecks larger and an Army Reserve and Guard boost of 6,300 troops.
Appropriators also added $1 billion for Guard and Reserve equipment, including Humvee and tactical vehicle procurement, weapons buys and training range improvements "to address severe shortages resulting from the demands of overseas deployments, which have made it more difficult to respond to natural disasters here at home," a Sept. 12 committee release said.
The subcommittee boosted defense health care by nearly $1 billion, adding $73 million to fund Wounded Warrior Act initiatives and reversed a planned $486 million reduction in military hospital funding.
The Pentagon's procurement account took a $1.4 billion hit below the administration's proposed budget, with a $910 million cut in funding for the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, a reduction of eight Marine H-1 attack and light transport upgraded helicopters "due to production delays" and the elimination of funding for the Army's M-1 Abrams tank "System Enhancement Program."
The defense appropriators agreed to fully fund the V-22 Osprey program, purchase 16 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters for the Army, buy 20 F-22 Raptors for the Air Force and build two more DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers for the Navy.
On the research and development side, the panel opted to slash $192 million from the Air Force's new Combat Search and Rescue helicopter program "due to a delay in the contract award," a move senior Air Force officials are worried will have dire effects on their rescue community.
The Navy combat drone program was fully funded, the Air Force's future tanker program account will be flush and the Army need not worry about a funding cut for its Future Combat Systems, the Appropriations Committee release showed.
Controversial missile defense programs were also left unscathed, including all requested funds for the Airborne Laser program, which was drastically cut by senate and house defense authorizers this summer.
The Corps took yet another hit on its Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program with a $100 million cut, adding to the woes of a program already teetering on life support.
The subcommittee also agreed to fund the manufacture of 12 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, and restored $480 million for a controversial alternate JSF engine program the Pentagon removed from its budget for the second year in a row.
The defense appropriations bill submitted by the panel "invests in the resources we need to secure our nation by fully supporting our servicemen and women and strengthening our National Guard and Reserves," said Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), in Wednesday's release.
"By investing in the next generation of cutting-edge military technologies, we will ensure that America's military forces are the best equipped in the world."
The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to approve the Pentagon budget bill Sept. 13.
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