Updated (1:28 p.m.) with some missile defense details.
The 2009 defense authorization bill cleared most hurdles last night. There were a number of issues in need of resolution but the chairman and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees (known as the Big Four) hammered out agreements and the bill is now "moving fast" said one congressional aide.
It should be cleared (that's parliamentary speak for voted on by both chambers) by the end of the week -- perhaps by tomorrow afternoon if the Senate can squeeze it on its calendar.
Among the likely issues that were solved last night (no one is talking much until their bosses get the details worked out) and the likely solutions:
Pay Raise: The Senate had approved an annual pay raise of 3.9 percent instead of the 3.4 percent increase in the budget request. I bet the House bowed to the Senate on this one. Everyone loves paying our troops more.
DDG-1000: The Senate authorizers approved the administration's request for a third DDG-1000 for $2.6 billion. The House would emasculate the program and restart the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers. Of course, the Navy now says the House course is essentially correct and wants money to restart the DDG-51 line. I bet the Senate went with a compromise on this on this one, probably pumping more money into the DDG-51 line than the House would have, especially since the Senate appropriators funded a third DDG-1000 destroyer [pictured] and added almost $400 million in advanced procurement money to restart the DDG-51 line.
Missile defense: The House is likely to have yielded some on European missile defense, meaning the Czech and Polish sites sites will get much of the administration's request for $712 million. Word is they will go with the Senate appropriators mark, which means the Czech radar probably will get funded but not the interceptors. They cut $90 million instead of $140 million (as the House wanted) from the military construction bill for the European sites. I hear this is still all a moving target as there is great unhappiness among Republican ranks about rewarding the Poles and allowing work to start on their site.
One big reason the authorizers have moved with such dispatch is that they risked increasing irrelevance if they had not passed a bill before the appropriators. Since authorizers can only place policy limits and caps on spending they must act before appropriators or they don't really matter much.