June 14, 2013
There are key differences in the sweeping defense policy bills moving through the Republican-led House and the Democratic-run Senate. Here’s a look at disparities between legislation approved Friday by the House and a bill passed Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Once the full Senate approves the committee’s bill, a panel made up of members from both chambers will meet to resolve differences.
The House bill rejects President Barack Obama’s latest plea to shutter the military-run prison in Cuba, and it bars the administration from transferring its terror suspects to the United States or to a foreign country such as Yemen. The Senate bill provides the Defense Department with additional flexibility to transfer detainees to the U.S. and other countries, with the objective of closing the detention facility.
The House bill provides $140 million as a down payment for a new missile defense site on the East Coast to expand the country’s defenses from a potential ballistic missile attack by Iran. The Senate bill does not mandate an East Coast site, opting instead to require the Pentagon to deploy additional radars to improve the capabilities of existing missile defense sites on the West Coast.
The House bill requires a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for a member of the armed services convicted of rape or sexual assault in a military court. The Senate bill includes a provision requiring automatic review by an individual higher in the chain of command should a commander decide not to prosecute a sexual assault allegation.
But there also is plenty of common ground in other areas, as many lawmakers believe aggressive legislative action is needed to halt the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military. Both bills would strip military commanders of the power to overturn convictions in rape and sexual assault cases and require that anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.
The House bill adds $5 billion to the administration’s budget request of roughly $80 billion for Afghanistan war costs to offset the negative impact of the automatic spending cuts on military readiness. The Senate bill approved the Obama administration’s request for war costs and added $1.8 billion to cover readiness shortfalls. The House bill also would block the U.S. from spending $2.6 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces until the Defense and State departments have certified to Congress that the two countries have signed an agreement governing the presence of U.S. forces there after the current combat mission ends in 2014. The Senate committee bill has no such prohibition.
The House bill provides U.S. troops with a 1.8 percent annual pay raise. The Senate bill authorizes a 1 percent increase in pay for the troops, which is the amount the Defense Department requested.