SENATE PASSES NATIONAL DEFENSE BILL
Bill Authorizes Funding the Military in 2008, Includes Provisions by Biden and by Carper
Legislation authorizing $648 billion for defense programs in 2008 passed the U.S. Senate today after nearly four weeks of debate.
The legislation, supported by Sens. Joe Biden and Tom Carper (both D-Del.) authorizes funding for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and other military concerns. It includes a 3.5 percent pay raise for all military personnel, allows the Army and Marine Corps to grow next year by 13,000 and 9,000 people respectively, requires a comprehensive plan to better support military families, and makes legal changes aimed at improving the military's acquisition process.
Sen. Biden's amendment stating the Senate's belief that U.S. policy should be to support Iraqi efforts to implement the federal provisions of their Constitution was included in the final bill. Sen. Carper was a co-sponsor this amendment, the only one to address the need to change policy on Iraq that received bipartisan support, 75-23.
"The Bush Administration is pursuing a fatally flawed policy in trying to create a strong central government in Iraq," Sen. Biden said. "There has been no significant reconciliation at the national level and there is no evidence that it will happen any time soon. Insisting on this failed approach will prolong and deepen Iraq's civil war, lead to a wider regional war, and irresponsibly increase the danger to over 160,000 American troops who are caught in the middle. I believe my plan offers the best chance for the U.S. to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind."
"I voted for several amendments that failed to win support to start bringing our troops home," Sen. Carper said. "But I also voted in favor of all provisions that continue to fully fund our troops as long as they remain in harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world."
Sen. Carper's amendment, which harnesses the buying power of the federal government to help bring to market more fuel-efficient cars, trucks and SUV's, was also included in this legislation. Many federal agencies from the Department of Defense to the Post Office purchase thousands of vehicles each year. This amendment encourages those agencies to purchase hybrids, clean diesels and other advanced technology vehicles.
Sen. Carper also authored legislation that was included in the bill to combat the ongoing lack of contracting expertise in the military by improving oversight, and reducing the serious waste and abuse in the contracting operations in Iraq today.
"Under our amendment, we provide training to the many military officers with great responsibility to oversee millions in contracts, but who are unprepared to ensure tax dollars are well spent and essential projects are completed," Sen. Carper said.
In addition, Sen. Biden was successful in adding $23.6 billion to build and transport to Iraq all of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles requested by commanders in Iraq. In May, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, the lead ground commander in Iraq, asked to replace every Army up-armored humvee there with an MRAP. Commanders in the field believe MRAPs will reduce IED casualties by sixty-seven to eighty percent. These additional funds will make that possible.
"We have no higher obligation than to protect those we send to the front lines," said Sen. Biden. "While we argue in Washington about the best course of action in Iraq, our troops on the ground face Improvised Explosive Devices, Rocket Propelled Grenades and suicide bombers every day. I am heartened to know that my amendmentwith the support of Democrats and Republicans working togetherwill provide technology and equipment that will save American lives on the ground in Iraq."
This bill also allows the military to pursue defense construction projects important to Delaware, including:
$17.5 million to move the Army's Joint Personal Effects Depot to Dover Air Force Base, and
$10.8 million to begin the replacement of the Air National Guard's C-130 maintenance hangar at the New Castle Air Base.