Nov 7, 2003
Press Release
Legislation Supports Troops and Military Families, Reforms Pentagon
Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted today in support of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (H.R. 1588), which passed the House 362-40. The bill sets policies, programs and funding levels for the nation’s military. “As we continue to fight the Global War on Terrorism, this bill will give our men and women on the front lines the best equipment, training and pay that is necessary to win,” said Congressman Wilson. “We have also succeeded in taking care of our veterans, as we have made historic progress in providing concurrent receipt pay for our disabled military retirees.” “The legislation also provides common-sense environmental reforms allowing our troops to properly train and important new benefits for military personnel and their families,” said Congressman Wilson. “I am so proud of the leadership provided by President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld in the fight to defeat terrorism, and we have worked to give them the tools they need to ensure victory and to protect our troops as they defend freedom.” H.R. 1588 authorizes $400 billion for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. It is expected to also pass the Senate early next week and then be sent to President Bush for his signature and enactment into law. Highlights of H.R. 1588 include: · Personnel Benefits: -A 4.15 percent average increase in base pay for our men and women in uniform. -A reduction in the average amount of housing expenses paid by service members from the current 7.5 percent to 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2004 - with elimination of the out-of-pocket expense completely by fiscal year 2005. ­-An increase in the family separation allowance for service members with dependents from $100 per month to $250 per month, for the period beginning October 1, 2003 and ending on December 31, 2004. ­-An increase in the rate of special pay for those subject to hostile fire and imminent danger from $150 per month to $225 per month, for the period beginning October 1, 2003 to December 31, 2004. ­-Extensions on other special pay and bonuses for active duty personnel through December 31, 2004. · Concurrent Receipt for Military Retirees: Currently, disabled veterans’ retirement benefits are offset by the amount of disability coverage that they are eligible for. H.R. 1588 provides full concurrent receipt of benefits for the most severely disabled veterans. · Military Construction: The bill authorizes $9.7 billion for construction of family housing, childcare centers, medical centers and other facilities. · New Weapons/Equipment: The bill authorizes $74 billion to purchase new weapons and equipment. o The bill authorizes $33.4 million for procurement of additional M249 SAWs, including $5 million for unfunded requirement of USMC. (M249 SAWs are made by FN Manufacturing in Columbia, S.C.) · “Freedom to Train”: H.R. 1588 contains focused, common-sense reforms of environmental laws that had begun to encroach on the ability of our soldiers to train for combat. · Reform of the Pentagon Civilian Personnel System: The new National Security Personnel System established in this bill will provide the Secretary of Defense agility in hiring, firing, and promoting a more responsive workforce; authority to tie pay to performance (rather than only longevity); authority to establish a new system for appraising performance; flexibility in classifying positions, administering pay and allowances; flexibility in determining a dispute resolution process for negotiating with employee representatives; and a better employee grievance process. ###