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Defense authorization bill heads to White House

Defense authorization bill heads to White House

Senate lawmakers finalized work on the $584.2 billion annual defense authorization bill on Friday, putting in place a 1 percent pay raise for troops starting in January and limiting growth in housing allowance rates.

The legislation, which President Obama is expected to sign into law in coming days, drew criticism from outside military advocates for the compensation trims, but it also ensures that authorization for a host of pay and other programs will continue without interruption into 2015.

This marks the 53rd consecutive year in which Congress has passed a defense authorization bill, but this time the measure faced a bumpy passage process in a lame-duck session.

Despite 10 months of debate on the issues, lawmakers barely found time to move the legislation onto the Senate’s voting calendar, and skipped typical debate on a host of issues.

Chamber leaders also had to navigate a host of procedural moves from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to derail the measure over over land transfer agreements attached to the measure and fought off a last-minute attempt by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to tack on a massive restructuring of the military justice system.

The Senate approved the measure 89-11. House members a week earlier approved the bill by a 300-119 vote.

Earlier in the week, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the measure a good compromise, even with the unpalatable compensation trims.

“These are not steps any of us want to have to take. However, the Budget Control Act of 2011 cut $1 trillion from the planned Department of Defense budget over a 10-year period,” Levin said. “Our senior military leaders told us they simply cannot meet sequestration budget levels without structural changes — canceling programs, retiring weapon systems, and reducing the growth in benefits — to reduce the size and cost of our military.”

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