By David Alexander
WASHINGTON Dec 20 The U.S. House of
Representatives approved the final version of the annual defense
policy bill on Thursday, authorizing $633.3 billion in defense
spending for 2013, easing limits on satellite exports and
providing more Marines for embassy security.
The Republican-controlled House approved the 2013 National
Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 315-107. The measure must
still be approved by the Senate before it can go to President
Barack Obama to be signed into law.
The measure authorizes a Pentagon base budget of $527.5
billion, plus $88.5 billion for overseas operations, primarily
the war in Afghanistan. The base budget includes $17.4 billion
for defense-related nuclear programs at the Energy Department.
The NDAA sets defense policy for the year. While it
authorizes spending levels for different military programs, it
does not appropriate the money. That is done under separate
legislation in the House and Senate.
In addition to authorizing the size of the military budget,
the bill approved a 1.7 pay increase for military personnel and
blocked a Pentagon effort to offset rising healthcare costs for
retirees by raising some health insurance fees.
The measure eases restrictions on the export of satellites
to help U.S. manufacturers, who have seen their global share of
the market shrink to less than 25 percent from 65 percent 15
years ago, said Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on
the House Armed Services Committee.
"The cumbersome nature of that regime has significantly
harmed U.S. satellite industry," Smith said during debate on the
measure. "Getting back to a competitive place with that industry
is critical to our national security."
The measure directs Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to
develop and implement a plan to increase the number of Marines
assigned to embassy and consulate security by up to 1,000.
The move aims to bolster diplomatic security following the
death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on the
consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The final bill also allows the Pentagon to continue its
efforts to develop biofuels, rejecting a House attempt to
prevent the purchase of fuels that are more expensive than
petroleum and to place limits on military assistance to
companies trying to build commercial scale biofuel refineries.