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Congress Finishes Work on Authorization Bill

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2009 – Congress has reached agreement on a $680.2 billion National Defense Authorization Bill for fiscal 2010.

The bill authorizes a 3.4 percent military pay increase and full funding for the Defense Health Program, and it caps F-22 Raptor production at 187 aircraft. For civilian workers, it ends the National Security Personnel System. It includes a base budget of $550.2 billion and $130 billion for overseas contingency operations.

Congress released the conference report Oct. 7. The full Senate and House must pass the conference report before the bill goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill includes $560 million to continue development and initial procurement of the alternate F136 engine for the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recommended that the funding be struck, arguing development of the F135 engine – the main engine for the F-35 – is proceeding well and that any money spent of the F136 would be wasteful. House and Senate conferees still included the engine in the fiscal 2010 budget authorization. White House officials said it is up to the president whether to veto the legislation over the inclusion.

The bill authorizes payment of hostile fire pay, imminent danger pay, hazardous duty pay, assignment pay and skill incentive pay to be prorated to reflect actual qualifying service performed during the month.

The authorization bill is one of two bills needed for the Defense Department to spend money – the other being the appropriations bill, which is still in a Senate-House committee to resolve differences between the two chambers’ versions.

The authorization bill includes end strengths of 562,000 for the Army,; 202,100 for the Marine Corps, 331,700 for the Air Force, and 328,000 for the Navy. The legislation authorizes an increase in active-duty Army end-strength of 30,000 in fiscal 2011 and 2012.

The bill authorizes $6.7 billion for all-terrain mine-resistant, ambushed protected vehicles, known as M-ATVs. The first of these vehicles have arrived in Afghanistan, with thousands more to be delivered under the new budget.

The authorization bill conference report has full funding for the Navy’s Carrier Replacement Program, a Virginia-class submarine, a littoral combat ship, a DDG-1000 destroyer and the DDG-51 program. The bill includes $512 million for 18 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft and approves the full request for 22 EA-18G aircraft – an advanced electronic warfare plane named the Growler.

The bill authorizes $7.5 billion to train and equip the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, and provides oversight of the $700 million dedicated to building Pakistan’s military, police and frontier corps, which guards Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The authorization also allows for the transfer of defense property in Iraq to Iraqi security forces or Afghan security forces.

The bill kills the Multiple Kill Vehicle program and the second Airborne Laser platform. It applies savings from terminations in the Army’s Future Combat System to other promising technologies and ensures these will spin out to Army brigades quickly.

The conference report repeals the authority for the National Security Personnel System and requires that affected employees transition to previously existing personnel systems. The authorization will provide new personnel flexibilities that include hiring, firing, assigning personnel and appraisals. The authorization also allows the secretary to propose other personnel flexibilities.

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