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President Signs Authorization Act

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 1996 – A 3 percent pay raise and a 4 percent raise in basic allowance for quarters are two results of the Defense Authorization Act President Clinton signed Sept. 23.

"One of our central missions is to ensure that our country remains the strongest force for peace and freedom in the world," Clinton said. "This bill makes good on our pledge to keep our armed forces the besttrained, bestequipped fighting force on Earth."

Congress added $11.5 billion to the president's fiscal 1997 defense request. Congress authorized a total of $265.7 billion for defense. The president asked for $254.2 billion.

The authorization act sets a ceiling for the amount DoD may spend. The appropriations act actually provides the money for the department. This year Congress included Defense Appropriations in a catchall spending bill funding nine cabinetlevel departments. Congress appropriated $244 billion to Defense. President Clinton signed the catchall bill into law several hours after passage Sept. 30.

Operations and maintenance funds are set at $83 billion for fiscal 1997. The Army will receive $18.2 billion; the Navy, $20.3 billion; the Marines, $2.2 billion; the Air Force, $17.6 billion and Defensewide activities, $9.9 billion. The Army National Guard is slated for $2.3 billion; the Air Guard, $2.7 billion; the Air Force Reserve, $1.5 billion; the Army Reserve $1.1 billion, the Naval Reserve, $858 million and the Marine Reserve, $113 million.

The act also authorizes $796.5 million for drug interdiction and counterdrug activities and $1.3 billion for environmental restoration.

The act also sets the strengths the services must be at at the end of fiscal 1997. Army end strength is 495,000; Navy, 407,318; Marines, 174,000 and Air Force, 381,000.

The act mandates reserve component end strength. The Army Guard is set at 366,758; Army Reserve, 215,179, Naval Reserve, 96,304; Marine Reserve, 42,000; Air Guard, 109,178; Air Force Reserve, 73,311; and Coast Guard Reserve at 8,000. In all cases, the defense secretary may vary end strengths by 2 percent.

The act addresses defense modernization. The Army Comanche helicopter, Navy Seawolf attack submarine, the Air Force C17 transport and the MarineCorps V22 Osprey all received authorization. The Army is authorized almost $8 billion for procurement. The Navy is slated for $17.1 billion with $560 million going to the Marines. The Air Force is authorized $15.3 billion. Defensewide activities will receive just over $2 billion.

Reserve components are slated to receive $780 million for procurement.

The act also:
  • Creates the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The agency combines the Defense Mapping Agency, the Central Imagery Office, the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center and other, classified agencies.
  • Addresses hate crimes in the military. The act mandates equal opportunity training for all members of the military and says recruiters must present information about DoD equal opportunity commitments to recruits. It also mandates an annual armed forces survey on race and ethnic issues.
  • Ensures all computers and software DoD buys will handle the Year 2000 problem. Many older accounting programs still in use, for example, don't recognize the new millennium and "see" the Year 2000 as 1900. The problem is global.
  • Provides $365 million for Cooperative Threat Reduction. The program facilitates the elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. Also called the NunnLugar program after its senate sponsors, it also works to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
  • o Authorizes qualified military medical beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare to enroll in DoD's TRICARE managed health program.

Finally, the act authorizes the president to award the Medal of Honor to seven AfricanAmerican soldiers for gallantry during World War II. The men are 1st Lt. Vernon J. Baker, Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, 1st Lt. John R. Fox, PFC Willy F. James, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas and Pvt. George Watson. Only Baker is still alive.

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