WASHINGTON -- President Bush will sign the $343 billion defense bill that Congress passed, giving full financing to his missile defense program while providing the largest military pay raise in two decades and setting up a new round of base closures.
An impasse caused by strong opposition to Bush's call for more base closings had delayed the bill for a month. Congress ultimately agreed to one round in 2005, two years later than Bush wanted.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday the administration would have preferred earlier base closings "but the administration supports the legislation passed by the Congress."
The vote in the House on Thursday was 382-40, followed several hours later by a 96-2 vote in the Senate.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had threatened to recommend a veto if the bill did not include a base-closing round in 2003, would not say Thursday whether the 2005 round in the legislation would allay that threat. "I'm going to have to sleep on that," he told reporters at the Pentagon.
Announcing Friday that Bush will sign the bill, Fleischer told reporters: "The secretary got a good night's sleep."
The defense legislation authorizes spending by the Defense Department and military efforts of the Energy Department for the budget year that began Oct. 1. It contains a $33 billion increase, up 10.6 percent, over 2001 spending, matching Bush's request. A separate appropriations bill must be passed before the money may actually be spent.
In another action Thursday, the Senate unanimously gave final approval by voice vote to the intelligence authorization bill approved Wednesday by the House, sending that to Bush as well.
The intelligence bill places new emphasis on human spy networks and increased analysis of raw data, and calls for an increase of about 8 percent in spending. The actual spending on intelligence has generally been kept secret but has been estimated at about $30 billion for the past few years.
Under the defense bill, military service members would get a minimum 5 percent across-the-board pay raise -- a 10 percent increase in some cases -- effective Jan. 1. "The most generous pay raise in 20 years" was the assessment of Rep. Bob Stump, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The bill provides more help with housing costs and a major boost in construction spending, including improvements to family housing.
Rumsfeld pushed hard for a base-closing round in 2003, saying it could save $3 billion or more a year that could be spent on essential military activities. He criticized the legislation Thursday.
The Pentagon, he said, would be stuck maintaining and protecting up to one-quarter more bases than it needs, diverting dollars and military personnel from accomplishing "something truly important with respect to the war on terrorism, and it's a shame."
On missile defense, Bush would get his full $8.3 billion request, a $3.1 billion increase over 2001. Bush notified Russia Thursday that the United States was pulling out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.