U.S. House Passes $638 Billion Defense Policy Measure

The U.S. House passed a defense policy bill for the 2014 fiscal year that would authorize $638 billion in discretionary, mandatory and war spending by the Defense Department and related agencies.

Under the measure, which passed 315-108, the Pentagon would be permitted to spend more on weapons systems, would be given new requirements for prosecuting sexual assaults and would impose restrictions on closing the detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

During the floor debate over the bill, H.R. 1960, the House plowed through 172 amendments. Among those adopted was one by Representative Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican, that would bar use of federal funds for the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen. Lawmakers rejected a proposal by Representative Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat, that would have barred funding after 2014 for the operation of the Guantanamo Bay facility.

The House rejected language sought by some lawmakers and victims-rights groups that would have allowed military personnel who were victims of sexual assaults to go outside the chain of command to independent military prosecutors.

Instead, the bill calls for a study of the role of commanding officers in administering military justice. Also, victims of sexual assaults would be permitted to request a transfer to a new unit or location and would have access to military lawyers trained to handle sexual assault cases.

Information Technology

The House adopted a proposal by Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, that would overhaul federal rules and standards for acquiring information technology. The amendment would require the appointment of a chief information officer for certain agencies. One provision would require analyses to identify and eliminate duplicative contracts.

Also adopted was an amendment by Representative Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican, stating that it’s the sense of Congress that members of the military who live or work in the District of Columbia should be exempt from the city’s firearm restrictions.

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