DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - December 21, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the fiscal year 2006 Defense Appropriations Act is a vitally important piece of legislation. It funds the operations of the Department of Defense and, in this particular case, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is disgraceful that this bill was delayed until the end of the year by an administration that was more interested in lobbying for the right to torture than in meeting the needs of our troops. Now at this late hour, it was further delayed by those who sought to take a bill they knew people would support--funding our troops--and load it up with favors for special interests. With these issues resolved, I am pleased this important legislation has finally passed.
The fiscal year 2006 Defense Appropriations Act includes funding for everything from boots to beans to bullets--everything our Armed Forces need to keep America safe. This bill funds the national defense program at $453.28 billion, including $50 billion in emergency appropriations for on going operations in Iraq and the war on terror.
The legislation funds recent and pending increases in Army end strength, provides a 3.1 percent pay raise to all members of the U.S. military, and increases housing allowances.
It funds the readiness programs that maintain our military's ability to conduct operations around the world, whether that means flying hours for pilots, steaming days for Navy crews, spare parts, training, or maintenance.
The legislation funds major acquisition programs in every service--whether the C-17, PAC-3 missiles, the Army's Stryker, or the Navy's DD-X program. It also funds $72.1 billion in research development test and evaluation. That includes future systems--whether air, land, space or sea systems--as well as important medical research that will bring our soldiers the most advanced medical treatment on future battlefields. The future American military, its capabilities, and its personnel are all funded in this legislation.
The $50 billion emergency appropriation included in this legislation funds on going operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever the war on terror takes American forces. That total includes money for combat pay, death gratuities, and other allowances. It includes $142.8 million for body armor and other personal protection equipment and $1.4 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Task Force. It funds important programs to replace lost or damaged helicopters and ground vehicles and restocks ordinances used in operations. It also includes $1 billion to meet immediate equipment deficiencies in the National Guard and Reserves.
The Defense appropriations bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation the Congress enacts each year. It is always tempting to some to try to attach riders to it that have nothing to do with the defense of our country or the courageous Americans who make up the U.S. military. I am pleased that, at long last, the Senate finally moved this vital legislation that is so important to our troops.
Mr. President, I know there will be some who criticize this legislation because of the way it was ultimately enacted. I share those frustrations. I wish that we could have passed a clean defense appropriations act 3 or 4 months ago to avoid the challenges we have seen in the last days. It is regrettable that we did not, but I am happy that this legislation has finally passed so that our troops receive the resources they need to protect this country.