Pentagon wins $5B budget increase

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional negotiators have tentatively settled on a relatively small, $5 billion increase for the Pentagon’s nonwar budget as a mammoth spending bill takes shape behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

That’s a 1 percent increase that would give the Pentagon $518 billion to cover everything except direct war spending.

The measure would also cut President Barack Obama’s budget request for Afghanistan’s security forces, as well as the amount he sought for special vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs.

The measure would provide $115 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a drop of almost $43 billion from last year as U.S. troops leave Iraq.

The Pentagon budget is the anchor of a $900 billion-plus catchall spending bill that’s being negotiated in anticipation of floor votes next week, before stopgap funding expires next weekend. At the same time, separate legislation setting Pentagon policy is also being negotiated.

The broader legislation exceeds $900 billion and remains in dispute over several policy provisions, including attempts by House Republicans to block numerous Environmental Protection Agency rules. Democrats are resisting GOP moves to block regulations on greenhouse gases and for protecting streams from the impact of mountaintop removal mining, said a Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private negotiations.

A section dealing with labor, health and education spending was also proving contentious.

Negotiators have a goal of officially unveiling the legislation on Monday.

Obama in February called for boosting the Pentagon budget by 5 percent, or $26 billion. But he and Congress agreed to cut that well back in negotiations this summer that set new spending limits on Cabinet agency operating budgets. A bill approved by the House this summer would have provided a 3 percent increase, while the Senate Appropriations Committee called for an outright freeze that freed up billions of dollars for domestic programs.

Lawmakers appear to be using some of the war funding to partially restore the curbs to core Pentagon programs such as procurement of new weapons systems.

The budget decisions are contained in congressional documents obtained by The Associated Press. The documents don’t get into specific decisions on items such as the controversial next-generation Joint Strike Fighter, beset by cost overruns and delays.

But they reveal a $1.6 billion cut to Obama’s request of $12.8 billion for Afghanistan’s military. The deal also eliminates — as would Obama — funding for Pakistan’s counter-insurgency efforts. House Republicans had sought to supply $1.1 billion to the program, which trains and equips Pakistan security forces.

The measure would also cut $814 million from a program funding vehicles that are resistant to land mines and roadside bombs, a reduction of almost one-fourth.

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