Washington D.C. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) joined her Senate colleagues to increase military pay and benefits, provide additional equipment and modernized gear to our armed forces, and fund important homeland and national security initiatives. These key provisions were included in the final FY2005 Defense Appropriations bill, which passed the Senate late last night.
Also included in this bill is $25 billion in emergency funds for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to meet the urgent needs of our armed services. These funds will be available when the bill is signed into law by the President.
This funding will help provide critical services and equipment to our men and women in uniform, said Senator Mikulski, a member of the Appropriations Committee. We need to make sure we protect our troops while they are abroad and help their families make ends meet here at home. I am so pleased my colleagues joined me in putting money in the federal checkbook for our troops and their families.
Following are highlights of the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Appropriations bill:
Financial Support for Military Families. The Defense Appropriations bill helps military families make ends meet with an across-the-board 3.5% pay increase for military personnel and an increase in the housing stipend for military personnel living off base. The bill also provides permanent increases in monthly combat pay, from $150 to $225, and stipends from $100 to $250 per month for service members who are away from their families for longer than 30 days.
Specialized Health Services for Wounded Troops. This legislation designates $19.2 million for specialized care of amputees. Six percent of those wounded in Iraq need such care. Also, $9.2 million will go to upgrade facilities and services at Walter Reed Army Medical Centers Amputee Center: the first stop in the U.S. for military amputees returning from combat in Iraq. An additional $10 million will be available for research on prosthetic care, limb development and rehabilitation.
Best Equipped, Best Armed Military. Funds are provided for production and deployment of aircraft, helicopters, trucks, tanks and other vehicles as well as smart weapons systems and armor plating that improve a combat vehicles ability to withstand a direct hit, effectively saving lives. An additional $350 million is designated specifically to equip National Guard and Reserve units. The next generation Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft, which will be developed and tested at Marylands Patuxent River Naval Air Station, is fully funded at $4.4 billion, $97 million more than in 2004.
This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and awaits the Presidents signature.