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Defense Authorization Bill on Deck after Committee Makes Changes

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  • November 15, 2011
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The Senate is expected to take up the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill before the end of the week after the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday passed a new version of the annual policy measure that revises the language of several terrorist detainee provisions opposed by the Obama administration.

The changes address some, but not all, of the concerns raised by the White House, reported CQ Today. As a result, several Senate Democrats will introduce amendments on the floor to remove one or more of the provisions from the legislation.

One contentious provision would have barred accused terrorists with direct ties to al Qaeda from being held in federal prisons. The committee modified that language to allow the president to determine whether a suspected terrorist is an al Qaeda affiliate. Opposition by the White House to the original language, along with other provisions, has stopped the legislation from being brought to the floor for several months.

In addition to clarifying the provisions on detainee matters, the committee cut $21 billion from the bill it passed in June in order to meet the spending caps enacted under August’s agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The reductions are spread throughout the bill, according to the committee. Cuts affecting readiness programs include:

  • $527 million in military construction would affect three domestic projects valued at $83 million, with the remaining cuts falling on overseas projects in areas subject to an ongoing strategic review, planning and design funds rendered unnecessary due to previous cuts, and programs that are not fully budgeted for in the future years defense program;
  • $3.1 billion in operations and maintenance, including $294 million for excess growth in service contractors and civilian employees; and
  • $4.9 billion for operations and maintenance for activities associated with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (the funds were shifted to overseas contingency operations accounts).

The committee approved the changes unanimously during a closed-door meeting. Debate on the Senate floor likely will not be completed until after Thanksgiving, according to CQ.

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