January 14, 2014, 07:46 am
$571B Defense bill reverses pension cuts for disabled veterans
By Jeremy Herb
The $571 billion Defense appropriations bill released late Monday would reverse cuts to retirement pay for medically retired veterans and survivor benefits that passed in last month’s budget deal.
The Defense bill included in the $1.012 trillion omnibus spending measure resolves a $600 million “technical error” that would have reduced the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for medically retired veterans.
The omnibus does not, however, repeal the larger $6 billion in cuts to military pensions for working-age retirees that some lawmakers have vocally opposed.
The Defense appropriations bill funds $486.9 billion in base spending, with additional funds from other appropriations bills reaching the $520 billion Defense spending cap set by the budget deal.
That’s roughly in line with the 2013 Defense spending levels, as the Pentagon avoided a $22 billion hit under sequestration thanks to last month’s budget agreement.
The bill also funds $85.2 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) for war funding, which is nearly $5 billion higher than the Pentagon’s request. Funding for Afghanistan operations is not subject to the sequester cap.
The Defense appropriations bill makes some trims for procurement and research funding.
It includes $92.9 billion in procurement funding, a drop of $7.5 billion from the 2013 appropriations measure. Research and development accounts receive $63 billion in 2014, a cut of $6.9 billion from last year.
Still, the bill does not appear to include any major weapons program cuts.
The measure includes $6.2 billion in funding for the Virginia class submarine program, $1.8 billion for in Littoral Combat Ship funding and nearly $1 billion for the carrier replacement program.
The legislation provides $504 million for Israeli missile defense systems, including $235 million for the Iron Dome program.
The bill funds $128.8 billion for personnel accounts, which is $1.3 billion higher than 2013 levels.
The measure includes a 1 percent raise for service members — the lowest in years — as Congress opted not to pass a raise higher than the Pentagon’s request.
The House is expected to vote on the omnibus bill on Wednesday, and the Senate will take it up later in the week.