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US Senate Acts Quickly to Approve Pentagon's Budget Request - 2004-06-25

The U.S. Senate Thursday night unanimously passed, by a 98-0 vote, a sweeping $416 billion defense spending bill, a day after it approved a measure authorizing defense programs for next year.

With unusual speed, the Senate passed the defense spending bill, the largest in U.S. history, after only one day of debate.

The measure funds military operations for the next budget year beginning October 1. It increases defense spending by six percent over the current year, but is 1.6 percent less than what President Bush had sought.

"We believe it addresses the key requirements for readiness, quality of life and transmission of our total force," said the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the bill's chief sponsor. "It honors the commitment we have to our armed forces, it ensures they will continue to have first rate training, modernized equipment and infrastructure, and maintain their quality of life."

Mr. Stevens says the unanimous vote for the legislation shows that lawmakers are willing to come together in times of crisis.

The bill includes $25 billion for the military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the first installment of money for those operations for next year. U.S. officials are expected to seek more money for Iraq and Afghanistan after the President election in November.

The measure funds an increase of 20,000 troops for the Army. The House version of the bill calls for increasing troop strength to 30,000.

The legislation includes $10 billion for the continued development of an anti-ballistic missile system.

It funds a pay raise for military personnel.

The bill also contains $95 million in relief aid to respond to the crisis in the western Darfur region of Sudan.

In addition, the measure includes $50 million to tighten security at the Republican and Democratic national conventions in New York and Boston, respectively, doubling the amount of money already approved.

House and Senate negotiators will have to resolve differences in their chambers' versions of the legislation before a final bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.