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Ironduke
12 Nov 03,, 18:11
Senate Poised To OK Pay Raise

Associated Press
November 12, 2003

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats plan to join Republicans in approving a $401.3 billion defense bill despite provisions they said would erode the rights of civilian defense employees and weaken environmental laws.

They noted the measure authorizing 2004 defense programs would also raise salaries for soldiers by an average of 4.15 percent and extend increases in combat and family separation pay.

The Senate was expected to approve the bill Wednesday and send it to President Bush for his signature.

"Our men and women in uniform will at least have some peace of mind that while they're facing imminent danger, while they are separated from their families, we are going to give them some additional assistance," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday.

The bill would also partially reverse a policy set in the 1890s of reducing disabled veterans' retirement benefits by $1 for every dollar received in disability pay. The change would be phased in over 10 years and mainly help the more seriously disabled - about a quarter-million veterans. It will cost $22 billion.

In a compromise, the bill allows the Air Force to lease 20 Boeing 767 planes as midair refueling tankers and buy 80 more. The Air Force says it urgently needs to replace its aging fleet, but some senators said its original proposal to lease all 100 planes was too expensive.

The bill was approved by the House on Friday in a 362-40 vote. It is $1.5 billion more than the amount requested by Bush and about 2.2 percent more than Congress approved last year.

Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said the bill will "protect our nation and vital interests around the world. It takes care of the troops, their families and our veterans who have all served so well in defense of freedom."

The measure would also authorize some of the Pentagon's most costly programs, including $9.1 billion for ballistic missile defense, $6.6 billion for the construction of seven new ships, $4.4 billion for developing the Joint Strike Fighter and $3.5 billion for 22 F/A-22 Raptor jet fighters.

But the Pentagon lobbied most intensively over changes affecting civil service and environmental regulations - and generally prevailed.

The Pentagon will have greater flexibility in hiring, firing and promoting civilian employees. It says current rules force it to use military personnel for jobs better suited for civilians. Democrats and unions say the bill hurts workers by weakening job protections, overtime rules and other rights.

Democrats also said the bill goes too far in providing the military with exemptions to the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Pentagon has said those laws have hampered training exercises.

The bill also lifts a decade-old ban on research into low-yield nuclear weapons and authorizes $15 million for continued research into the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, capable of destroying deep underground bunkers. Republicans say the United States needs to adapt its nuclear arsenal to defend against terrorism and other modern threats. Democrats say the change could trigger a new arms race and increase the risk of nuclear war.

The bill does not provide the money for military programs. Most of the funding will come from a $368 billion defense appropriations bill signed by Bush on Sept. 30.

Additional funds for military construction projects would be provided under a separate $9.3 billion measure. The House approved the measure last week and the Senate could give final approval Wednesday.

The military construction bill is $1.4 billion below last year's level, but $200 million over Bush's request. Lawmakers added more than 100 projects for military facilities in their home districts that Bush had not requested.

The measure would be the fifth of the 13 spending bills for the new budget year that Congress will have completed.

The defense authorization bill is H.R. 1588.

http://www.military.com/NewsContent?file=FL_pay_111203

Stinger
12 Nov 03,, 19:31
Great that adds all of 50 bucks a month to the Pay of an E-3 brining them upto about $1150 or so a month or slightly less than 14000 a year.... whats the poverty line again?