Armed Services Committee Approves FY 2011 Defense Authorization Bill

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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) announced today in a press release that the “committee has completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.”  The final vote was 18-10.

Congressional Quarterly reports that a number of provisions in the bill “are sure to cause sparks to fly when the measure reaches the floor.”

The measure, which the Senate could take up at any time this summer, would authorize $725.7 billion for defense programs, slightly less than the $725.9 billion requested by the president.

Included are $550.3 billion for the Defense Department, $157.6 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and $17.7 billion for other programs, mostly at the Energy Department.

The measure’s controversial provisions include one that would allow abortions to be performed at military hospitals, if paid for by private money. Another would direct the president to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, a provision that Levin believes is not constitutional and that the White House has strongly opposed.

McCain praised that provision, which he sponsored. “It is the federal government’s obligation to protect all Americans by securing the borders, and deploying 6,000 National Guard is a critical first step,” he said in a statement late Thursday.

Regarding alleged terrorists in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the bill would eliminate any funding for the construction of a prison in Thomson, Ill., that the Obama administration had envisioned for housing some of the detainees. And the measure would bar the transfer of any detainees to Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

And of course, one of the controversial provisions was widely noted yesterday when members approved a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy.

Additionally, Reuters reports that the committee “voted to require Pentagon contractors to certify that they are not doing any banned business with Iran.”

So now the big question is when floor debate will begin.  Roll Call reports that Senator Levin “said he hopes the defense authorization bill will see floor action before July 4, a deadline that could easily slip given the long list of other legislative priorities.”

“Our goal is to get it up before the summer recess … even before the July Fourth recess,” the Michigan Democrat told reporters Friday, one day after the Armed Services panel approved the defense bill by a vote of 18-10.

“Does it complicate my life to try to get the bill to the floor when complicated matters are in a bill? Of course it does. But that’s my hope, that we’ll be able to succeed,” Levin added.

A comprehensive summary of the provisions within the bill can be found here.

(credit image – daylife/associated press)

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