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Military News Briefs for the Week of Dec. 22, 2000

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2000 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending Dec. 22, 2000.)

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Cohen's Traveling Troupe Tours Europe

MUNICH, Germany, Dec. 18, 2000 -- Cowboys, entertainers, sports stars, old soldiers, Congress members and an astronaut toured European troop bases through Dec. 19 with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Several thousand service and family members enjoyed Cohen's fourth and final holiday tour, co-sponsored by the USO. This year, the secretary, his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, and celebrity guests visited troops in Italy, Germany, Kosovo and Bosnia.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from the Mediterranean to the Balkans had a chance to meet and greet the stars.

Along with Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Carole King, the traveling troupe included Mike Singletary, Football Hall of Fame linebacker of the Chicago Bears and Baseball Hall of Fame Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks. Singers Ruth Pointer-Sayles, Jewel and Shane Minor, were accompanied on keyboard and guitar by Jon Carroll, Rudy Guess, Phil Symonds and Arlan Schierbaum.

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Shelton Signs Cooperation Plan With Russians

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2000 -- The top U.S. and Russian military leaders signed the 2001 Plan of Cooperation that sets out how the two militaries will work together.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Anatoliy Kvashnin, chief of the Russian general staff, signed the plan Dec. 12. The plan is an important part of engagement between the two countries.

During a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev agreed the plan could help reduce what Sergeyev called “the permafrost” in U.S.-Russian relations.

The plan is divided into three parts: visits by Russian military delegations to the United States, visits by U.S. military delegations to the Russia, and major combined exercises and exchanges at various command levels.

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Congress Extends VA Home Loan Guarantee Improvements

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2000 -- Congress has extended two 1992 improvements to the Department of Veterans Affairs Home Loan Guarantee Program that were due to expire in 2001.

Congress passed legislation earlier this year that will allow National Guard and Resere members to apply for the VA Home Loan Guarantee Program through December 2007. The 1992 legislation established the benefit but made it good only through 2001, said Keith Pedigo, director of the VA’s Loan Guarantee Service.

Veterans whose service was in the Guard or Reserve make up about 3 percent of the loans VA handles, Pedigo said. “Because of the success of the program, Congress decided it would be appropriate to extend the eligibility of the Guard and Reserve,” he said.

To be eligible, guardsmen and reservists must have at least six years' service in the Guard or Reserve, Pedigo said, but they need not be consecutive years.

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New Housing Allowance Rates Among Largest in History

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2000 -- Almost 90 percent of service members receiving Basic Allowance for Housing will see their rates rise significantly in 2001, DoD officials said here Dec. 21.

“The range of the rates will go up from 12 to 17 percent,” said Bernard Rostker, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “The average increase will be 14.5 percent.”

Officials said this is among the largest increase in history. The new BAH rates are at http://www.dtic.mil/perdiem/bahform.html.

While no one will see their rates decrease, some 25 percent of the BAH rates will not increase, Rostker said, but that involves only 11 percent of the BAH population. Around 748,000 service members receive the allowance.

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