NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006--CONFERENCE REPORT -- (Senate - December 21, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the fiscal year 2006 Defense Authorization Act contains a number of provisions that take an important step towards the Military Family Bill of Rights I believe we need.
Among the final provisions, the legislation authorizes an increase of the death gratuity to $100,000 for all active-duty service members. I was pleased to originally offer this provision as an amendment to the fiscal year 2005 supplemental appropriations act earlier this year. I was happy to work with Senator LEVIN on this bill to bring this provision into reality.
I offered another amendment on the supplemental last spring to increase to 1 year the length of time surviving families of service members may reside in Government housing or receive the basic allowance for housing. It was signed into law then, but because it was part of the supplemental, it expired with the end of the fiscal year. The fiscal year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act makes this extension permanent.
I am also pleased that the final bill includes authorization for increased funding for Project Sheriff--an initiative of the Office of Force Transformation to provide our soldiers and marines with a full spectrum of lethal and nonlethal weapons when engaging enemies in an urban environment.
The Defense authorization bill includes other important provisions for our country: a 3.1-percent pay raise for military personnel; increased Army and Marine Corps end strength, and an expansion of TRICARE benefits for members of the Selected Reserve and their families.
Taken together, these provisions are important milestones. They are further testament of this Congress's and this country's determination to maintain the best trained, best equipped, best prepared, and most capable military on earth. It is also a recognition of the important contributions made by military families--families who give so much to this country.
When I voted for this legislation on the Senate floor, one essential aspect was that the limitations placed on the review of habeas corpus claims of Guantanamo Bay detainees were prospective only. I am pleased to say that the bill's effective date was not altered in conference. As a result, as the Supreme Court held in Lindh v. Murphy, it still employs the normal rule that our laws operate prospectively.