US Congress passes defence bill, sends to Obama

Congress gave final approval to legislation that authorises the US Defence Department to spend nearly USD 160 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghan this budget year without major restrictions on the conduct of operations.

Last Updated: Dec 23, 2010, 23:25 PM IST

Washington: Congress on Thursday gave final
approval to legislation that authorises the US Defence
Department to spend nearly USD 160 billion on the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan this budget year without major restrictions on
the conduct of operations.

The bill passed the House and Senate on voice votes
after Democrats agreed to strip several provisions, including
one that would have allowed gays to serve openly in the
military.

"The controversial aspects of this legislation have
been removed," said Sen John McCain, the top Republican on the
Armed Services Committee.

The provision that would have overturned the
military`s "don`t ask, don`t tell" policy was approved as a
standalone bill and President Barack Obama today signed it
into law.

Other provisions in the bill include: Up to USD 75
million to train and equip Yemeni counter-terrorism forces;
USD 205 million for a programme with Israel to develop its
"Iron Dome" defence system; USD 11.6 billion for the
development of the Afghan security forces, and USD 1.5 billion
for Iraqi security forces.

The House, which approved the bill last Friday, had to
consider it again as the Senate cut out a provision on
payments of World War II claims to residents and survivors in
the Pacific island of Guam.

The Democratic delegate from Guam, Madeleine Bordallo,
said the Senate eliminated the payments because some senators
objected to the cost.

She said elimination of the money could adversely
affect US plans for a military buildup on the island.
Congress considers the defense authorisation bill to
be its primary chance to sway Pentagon policy. While it does
not transfer money into Defence Department coffers, it does
serve as a blueprint for the defence appropriations bill by
authorising spending levels.

This year`s bill agreed to USD 725 billion in defence
programmes, including USD 158.7 billion for overseas combat.
The bill also would continue restrictions on the
Defence Department`s ability to close Guantanamo Bay,
including prohibiting the transfer of detainees to the US.

PTI