Obama signs military budget bill; Pak to get $2.3 bn

Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 12:28

Washington: US President Barack Obama
on Thursday signed a USD 680-billion defence budget bill that
provides USD 2.3 billion military assistance to Pakistan with
tough condition to make sure that the funds are not squandered
or diverted to affect the "balance of power in the region".

Obama said the Defence Authorisation Bill for 2010
eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in the defence
process that will better protect the nation, troops and save
taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.
"The bill includes a commitment to the stability of
Afghanistan and Pakistan, expanded programmes to keep nuclear
weapons out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists, and a
reformed system of defence acquisition to save taxpayer
money," said House Majority Leader Steny H Hoyer.

The military aid money to Pakistan for the fiscal 2010
as mentioned in the bill has two major components -- USD 1.6
billion for the Coalition Support Fund and USD 700 million for
the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.

For the USD 1.6 billion Coalition Support Fund, the
bill would require that, before any more such money is spent,
the Obama administration must certify that doing so is in the
US national interest and will not adversely affect the
region`s balance of power.

India feels that the American assistance to Pakistan
should be more focused on building counter-insurgency
capabilities rather than conventional defence equipment which
can be diverted for other purposes.

New Delhi`s concerns were acknowledged by the US after
former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last month admitted
that American military aid during his tenure had been used to
strengthen defences against India. Washington had said it took
Musharraf`s statement "very seriously".

The certification by Obama administration is an
indirect and polite way of saying that the money being given
by the US to Pakistan – in lieu of the services rendered by
the Pakistan Army as part of America`s war against terrorism
in the region – should not be spent on weapons aimed at India.

Certification too is required for the USD 700 million
Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund; which began in
2009, and is meant to train and equip the Pakistani military
to fight insurgents and terrorists on its territory.

The bill requires that, before those funds start to
flow, the Defense Secretary must certify to the Congress that
Pakistan is making "concerted efforts" to fight al-Qaeda and

The President would have to report to Congress every
180 days on "progress toward long-term security and stability
in Pakistan," including the effectiveness of security aid to
Pakistan in contributing to the goal of defeating al-Qaeda.

The US has insisted that there is no condition imposed
on Pakistan under the bill and there are only requirements to
be fulfilled by the Obama Administration.

Since 9/11 terror attacks in the US, Pakistan has
received as aid approximately USD 7.6 billion to fight the
"war on terrorism."
US defence budget a victory for reform: Obama

US President Barack Obama signed a 680-billion-dollar military budget bill, saying his campaign to stamp out Pentagon waste proved political change was possible in Washington.

A significant civil rights move was also attached to the legislation by Congress, a hate crimes bill which outlaws offences motivated by a person`s race, gender, identity or sexual orientation.

"I have always rejected the notion that we have to waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep this nation secure," Obama said, before signing the defence authorisation act at the White House.

"In fact, I think that wasting these dollars makes us less secure and that`s why we have passed a defence bill that eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in our defence process."

But warning that the bill was not perfect, the president vowed to carry on fighting to cut waste in the defence budget, which is often packed with pet projects of lawmakers for their home states.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the previous administration, pledged to renew Obama`s effort to cut waste in the massive Pentagon budget in subsequent spending bills.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 12:28

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