Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon), the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today announced that the committee approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R. 1540) by a vote of 60 to 1. Overall, the legislation would authorize $553 billion for the Department of Defense's base budget, $119 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $18 billion for the Department of Energy's atomic energy defense programs. This includes funding for Sheppard Air Force Base.
"In April, I again visited with our Armed Forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. They continue to perform their duty remarkably well as evidenced by the great strides I witnessed in both places," said Rep. Thornberry. "It is critical to our national security to keep this progress going. Even in a time of tight budgets, this defense legislation provides significant support for our fighting forces, offers additional resources for other national security efforts, and helps us prepare to deal with national security threats that are still emerging -- all in a fiscally responsible way," he continued.
Included in the legislation is a 1.6 percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the Armed Forces in 2012. It also would block, for a year, any increase in enrollment fees for participants in the TRICARE Prime health maintenance organization, part of the military's health care network.
The bill would allow the Department of Defense to increase TRICARE fees for working age retirees by an average of $2.50 a month for individuals and $5 a month for families, which is the first increase in the program in 16 years. It also would cap the Department of Defense's ability to increase fees beyond cost-of-living adjustments in the future.
"Sheppard Air Force Base continues to be recognized as one of America's premier military training facilities. So even as some defense spending is scaled back, the base, its workforce, and its mission remain critical and therefore will receive funding," said Thornberry.
Also included in the legislation is $10.5 billion for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM)--a 7 percent increase over last year's funding level -- which includes the forces that conducted the operation on Osama bin Laden.
Thornberry said he was hopeful the House leadership would bring H.R. 1540 to a vote by the full House before Memorial Day.