By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 – A Pentagon spokesman has praised a budget bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives that would fund the government through September, but cautions tough spending decisions remain.
The bill provides DOD with necessary funding for critical investments and modernization, an increase in pay and benefits, continued training, equipment maintenance and funding that supports military operations in Afghanistan, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
The bill is still awaiting action in the Senate.
It alleviates some of the cuts mandated under sequestration. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has worked long and hard with members of Congress on the legislation. “Preserving our readiness has been his number one priority,” Kirby said.
The wide ranging spending bill doesn’t solve every problem, but it does provide DOD a measure of stability.
One aspect revises a provision covering medically retired service members. “Last week, Secretary Hagel visited Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to visit with our wounded warriors,” Kirby said. “There he met Victor Rivera, a medically retired Army sergeant wounded in Iraq in 2007 who continues to receive rehabilitation care there at the Center for the Intrepid.”
The sergeant would have been subject to the so called cost-of-living minus one percent provision within the bipartisan budget act. “The secretary is pleased that the bipartisan spending package includes a fix that will exempt medically retired personnel like Sergeant Rivera from a slower rate of growth of pension payments during their working years,” the admiral said.
Hagel is looking forward to working with Congress on a comprehensive approach to pay in benefits that addresses growing imbalances in the U.S. military.
Still, tough choices lie ahead. DOD faces decisions about the future of the force. “We are still absorbing nearly $30 billion over the next 10 years that were not accounted for in the presidential budget submission,” Kirby said.
The measure also provides funding for fiscal 2015 above sequestration levels, even though it will still be $40 billion less than projected last year. “Without further compromise, sequestration will remain the law of the land for the next decade,” he said.
The secretary briefed the combatant commanders, service chiefs, service secretaries and other senior leaders of the department to continue discussions on the fiscal 2015 budget submission.
The meeting also included a healthy discussion of the quadrennial defense review that’s currently underway, Kirby said.
“With this leadership council behind them, Secretary Hagel and the service secretaries will now turn to finalizing the DOD budget plan for fiscal year ’15,” the admiral said.
Officials do not know when the budget submission will happen. The Office of Management and Budget makes that determination which traditionally has been the first Monday in February.
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