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Bush Signs Authorization Act During Pentagon Ceremony

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2003 – Calling it a landmark piece of legislation that sends the clear message that "Americans stand with the United States military," President Bush signed the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act in a Pentagon ceremony here today.

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President George W. Bush called the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act a landmark piece of legislation that sends the clear message that "Americans stand with the United States military." Joined by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and a host of legislators and DoD civilian and military leaders, Bush addressed an audience at the Pentagon Nov. 24 before signing the act authorizing DoD to spend its $401.3 billion budget. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Dunaway II, USAF.
  

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A bipartisan group of legislators and DoD's civilian and uniformed leaders flanked him.

The act authorizes DoD to spend $401.3 billion in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. "We will do all it takes to keep our military strong, to keep the peace and to keep the American people secure," Bush said.

The money is in addition to the $87 billion supplemental bill passed earlier this month. "The war on terror is different than any war America has ever fought," the president said. "Our enemies seek to inflict mass casualties without fielding mass armies. They hide in the shadows, and they are often hard to strike. The terrorists are cunning and ruthless and dangerous, as the world saw on Sept. 11, 2001, and again in Istanbul last week."

But the terrorists now are facing the United States and its allies, "and this threat to civilization will be defeated," Bush said.

The new threats mean the U.S. military must be fast, smart and agile, the president said. "Right now, America's armed forces are the best-trained, best- equipped and best-prepared in the world, and this administration will keep it that way."

Bush said the legislation supports the force with an across-the-board pay raise that averages 4.1 percent. It extends the current payment of $225 and $250 per month for hazardous duty/imminent danger pay and separation pay. It reduces housing costs for those living off post, and it keeps up the robust bonus-pay program that has served the all-volunteer force so well.

"Those who risk their lives for our liberty deserve to be fairly paid and fairly treated, and this bill keeps those commitments," Bush said.

The legislation helps America remain prepared and fully equipped for unseen challenges. "In our new struggle, challenges can emerge suddenly, and so we must always be ready," Bush said. The bill fully funds operations and maintenance accounts and amends some environmental laws that had an adverse effect on realistic training for America's military.

"The Congress has authorized the full $9.1 billion that I requested for ballistic missile defense," Bush said. "The spread of ballistic missile technology, along with the spread of weapons of mass destruction, is a terrible danger to America and the world. We must have the tools and the technologies to properly protect our people."

In introducing Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld [http://www.defenselink.mil/bios/rumsfeld.html] called the legislation "transformational." The president agreed. "This bill also advances the vital work of transforming the personnel system for civilian defense workers so we can put the right person in the right job to meet the challenges we face," he said.

Bush pointed out the department's nearly 700,000 civilian workers have been laboring under "a cumbersome, inefficient system designed for another century."

The National Security Personnel System gives DoD managers the flexibility to place civilian workers where they are most needed without needless delay, Bush said. The bill reduces the time it takes to hire new people, and it introduces pay for performance bonuses and streamlines the promotion process.

"These are landmark reforms -- the most ambitious of their kind in a quarter of a century," the president said. "To win the war on terror, America must fully utilize the skill and talents of everyone who serves their country, and this bill will help us achieve that goal."

Bush said everyone associated with the Defense Department is involved in a great and historic task. "And the stakes for our country could not be higher," he said. "We face enemies that measure their progress by the chaos they inflict, the fear they spread and the innocent lives they destroy.

"America's military is standing between our country and grave danger," he continued. "You are standing for order, hope and democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. You're standing up for the security of all free nations and for the advance of freedom. The American people and your commander in chief are grateful, and we will support you in all your central missions."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, right, escorts President George W. Bush through an honor cordon up the steps of the Pentagon Nov. 24. The president visited the building to sign the fiscal 2004 Defense Authorization Act, giving DoD authority to spend its $401.3 billion budget in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Dunaway II, USAF.  
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