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Defense Authorization Bill Approved by Committee

On May 1, the House Armed Services Committee approved the FY2003 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4546) by a vote of 57-1. H.R. 4546 would authorize $383 billion in military spending for FY2003.

During the committee mark-up, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) offered an amendment that would have allowed military personnel and their dependents to use their own funds for abortion services in overseas military facilities. Under current law, the Department of Defense (DoD) covers abortions in domestic and military facilities only in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. The amendment was defeated, 24-34.

Another amendment offered by Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) included a proposal by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) that would require the Secretary of Defense to prepare an annual report on the status of women in the armed forces. The amendment was approved by voice vote.

Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) offered an amendment to prohibit DoD from requiring or recommending that female armed services members stationed in Saudi Arabia wear abayas—full-length body robes with head-coverings—while off base. The amendment was withdrawn until a hearing could be held on the issue.

The bill would allocate $278.74 million for DoD to use in carrying out health care programs, projects, and activities. The bill also would call for improvements in the administration of TRICARE, the military’s health care system.

Additionally, the bill would authorize $678.4 million in FY2003 for the construction and improvement of military family housing units, $17.7 million more than the President’s request. Also, $17.6 million would be allocated for child development centers, $6.9 million more than the President’s request. The funding would enable the operation of an additional four centers.

The House is expected to consider the bill on May 9.

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