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Washington, D.C. –– U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Senate colleagues voted 97-2 to approve legislation authorizing more than $343.3 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) today.

The DOD has requested the money for maintenance, acquisition and improvement of weapons such as helicopters, missiles, jets, destroyers, submarines and many other tools of warfare.

The people who are charged with operation of those and other weapons are not forgotten in the bill. It authorizes money for a pay raise of at least 5 percent for all military personnel and pay raises of 6 to 10 percent for mid- and senior-level enlisted personnel and junior officers. The bill authorizes about $230 million to help pay for housing for service members and their families with the goal of eliminating out-of-pocket housing costs by 2003. Authorized spending totals also include money for the Defense Health Program, which encompasses comprehensive care in skilled nursing facilities, home health care and extended benefits for military dependents with certain disabilities.

The authorizing bill also includes $8.3 billion for development of a ballistic missile defense system, almost $13 million for research of computer information system security and $5.6 billion for antiterrorism measures. The bill also includes some funding for training special operation forces in counterterrorism.

Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) rounds are scheduled to begin in 2005 instead of 2003 as originally proposed in the Senate bill. BRAC is the process where the military evaluates the effectiveness of its bases around the country.

Enzi cosponsored a successful amendment with fellow Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas and others that would encourage joint helicopter mission operation between the active duty at F.E. Warren Air Force Base and Wyoming National Guard.

Enzi and Thomas were also able to remove language in the bill that would have stripped veterans of their WWII and Vietnam souvenirs, and gun collectors and enthusiasts of their United States military relics and antiquities. (See related news release.)

The DOD authorization sets funding parameters for general areas. Funding for specific areas will actually be allotted in the DOD appropriations bill, which the Senate will consider in the coming days.

The House also passed the DOD authorization conference report today. The bill now goes to the President for his signature.