By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2009 " Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a joint statement today encouraging Senate passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill.
We strongly urge Senate passage of the Defense Appropriations Bill today, prior to expiration of the current continuing resolution, " the statement said. Passage today will provide important support for our foreign policy and national security priorities and ensure continuity of funding for our troops in combat and for all of the Department of Defense. "
The House passed the $636.3 billion Dec. 16.
If the Senate doesn`t pass the bill by the close of business today, the current continuing resolution will expire. While the expiration of the continuing resolution would mean the Defense Department is out of money, it is not necessarily a mandate to pass the bill. Lawmakers could choose to pass another continuing resolution and postpone a final vote.
The Senate did, however, adopt a motion earlier today to limit debate on the topic. Despite limiting debate, a vote on the passage of the bill most likely won`t occur until tomorrow.
The bill provides funding to the Defense Department for the budget year that began Oct. 1, providing a 4 percent increase for core Pentagon operations. The bill includes $128 million for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not cover funds for the recently announced troop increase for Afghanistan. President Barack Obama has yet to request that money.
It also includes money for development of an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Among other things, the bill does not allow for any new F-22 Raptors and trims about $900 million from the Pentagon`s $7.5 billion budget to train Afghan security forces. That money would be used to purchase about 1,400 more mine-resistant vehicles suited to Afghanistan`s terrain.
Requests regarding the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are addressed as well. The bill rejects Obama`s request for $100 million to close the prison, but would allow detainees to be transferred to the United States to stand trial.