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US House of Representatives passes far-reaching defense bill
December 21, 2012, 3:55 pm

US Marines in action. [Getty images]

US Marines in action. [Getty Images]

The US House of Representatives voted 315-107 in favour of a $633 billion defense bill, which includes policy on Iran, Guantanamo, the war in Afghanistan and missile technology.

Although the White House had threatened to veto earlier versions – the spending is $1.7 billion more than US President Barack Obama had requested and slaps some restrictions on his Guantanamo policy – the bill has been sent to the Senate for a vote.

It authorises $528 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget, $17 billion for defense and nuclear programs in the Energy Department and calls for an additional 1,000 Marines for diplomatic mission security to meet global threats.

US lawmakers have been worried about security at embassies abroad particularly after investigations revealed that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed due to lax protocols in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 of this year.

Elsewhere in the international arena, the bill allocates $88.5 billion to fund the Afghanistan war while slapping more punitive sanctions on Iran’s energy and shipping sectors.

It also allocates $480 million for US-Israeli missile defense, including $211 million for Iron Dome, an anti-missile program that shoots down rockets.

Iron Dome was used successfully during the Israeli-Palestinian military conflict in Gaza in November.

The bill also includes a 1.7 per cent pay increase for military personnel and provides money for new equipment.

Earlier, the Pentagon had argued that the bill would require the military to retain outdated materiel in favour of political popularity.

“Aircraft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have outlived their usefulness, have a natural political constituency. Readiness does not,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said of the bill.

The bill also extended by one year current restrictions on Obama’s ability to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the US or other countries.

Source: Agencies