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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Besides 'don't ask, don't tell,' what else is in the defense bill?

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Updated 10:59 a.m. ET
The Senate is poised later today to take another procedural vote to move forward on a bill that would end the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But remember that the measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, includes much, much more than just an end to the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Thursday morning that the Senate must vote to move ahead with the bill this week, in order to get any changes passed by the House before Congress leaves town.

"We should not deny the Senate the opportunity to take up this bill, which is so essential for the men and women in the military, because we disagree with some provisions of the bill," Levin said. "These are legitimate issues for debate. And I believe the Senate should debate them. But the only way we can debate and vote on these issues is if the Senate proceeds to the bill."

At the height of negotiations last month regarding the future of "don't ask, don't tell," Levin complained to reporters, "The bill has 849 pages and only two of them are 'don' t ask, don't tell.' The rest have to do with our troops, they have to do with a whole lot of critically important things."

The bill accounts for billions of dollars in government spending, including controversial provisions to fund a secondary engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and other weapons systems. Much of the Washington area's contractor community relies on the funds authorized in the bill.

Provisions would also allot $11.6 billion to train the Afghan army and police as the U.S. prepares to draw down starting next year and pay for the transfer of military equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, noted Wednesday that the bill includes several smaller items critically important to troops.

"If the defense bill doesn't pass, it will be the first time in 48 years - not a precedent this administration or this Congress wants to set while fighting two wars," Rieckhoff said in an e-mail. His group last week announced its support for ending "don't ask, don't tell."

The bill would provide more funding for the Defense Department to hire mental health providers and to provide enough money to screen every service member for the effects of traumatic brain injury.

In an attempt to make the transition from active duty to veteran life easier, the bill also would provide more funding and guidance for the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs to work on a seamless transfer of service member's medical records, allowing for a faster health assessment once troops leave the service. Improving health records sharing is a big goal of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who have been working together on the issue since the start of the Obama administration.

In an attempt to update the military's sexual harassment policy, the bill would change the penal code to reflect current sexual assault and harassment laws. It would make it easier to repay the student loans of a service member killed in action. Finally, it would establish a panel to investigate potential exposure to hazardous materials from the open air burn pits used at military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The campaign to end "don't ask, don't tell" through legislation likely ends today for the foreseeable future if the Senate procedural vote fails, but the overall defense bill may live on. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has said he would try to get the 2011 defense bill completed early next year, while preparing to consider the 2012 measure.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 9, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Military  
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The ignorant republicans clearly don't give a crap about the troops.

Posted by: dem4life1 | December 9, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The military budget has been out of control for too long. We need to put a freeze on all projects and equipment orders until our national budget can afford to throw more money at the losers.
Our overpaid mercenary troop level should also be cut deeply. Thier job is to win wars and they haven't done that since WWII.
They should quit pretending they know how to do the job.
My vote on the total bill package is NO.

Posted by: carldsutton | December 9, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

For only $500 Billion dollars we can have an army of genetically modified Rhinoceroses armed with machine guns.

If you love America and don't support Terrorism you'll support this idea.

Posted by: nonvoter | December 9, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The military budget has been out of control for too long. We need to put a freeze on all projects and equipment orders until our national budget can afford to throw more money at the losers.
Our overpaid mercenary troop level should also be cut deeply. Thier job is to win wars and they haven't done that since WWII.
They should quit pretending they know how to do the job.
My vote on the total bill package is NO.

Posted by: carldsutton | December 9, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Carl Sutton. NO to this bill. No borrowing money from China to prop up the defense industry.

Posted by: AnnsThought | December 9, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what it has regarding mental health treatments of the military. In light of the recent healthcare reform, it looks like an attempt to disgard medicaid so it can no longer police the pharma mega-coporations, since it will be mandatory healthcare, auto insurance style with private insurers with assigned risk pools.

The public needs some of this wikileaks information to protect itself. Current light has been shed on some of the relationships that people did not know existed, like the pharma companies being “vital” to the US feds. This relationship goes a long way to explain seemingly bizarre and dangerous decisions made by the FDA in regards to Avandia and psych meds and the explosion of the mental health industry and drugs. People need to know that the approval process for these drugs is heavily tainted by DOD & DOJ (the 2 most interest-conflicted and corrupt govt. agencies we have) interests and the FDA is merely a puppet organization when deciding whether or not to take or give psych meds to their children. I wonder what other "relationships" exist.

Posted by: rockireindeer | December 9, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

We have 11.6 BILLION dollars for Afghanistan, yet we are closing schools and letting our roads rot at home for lack of money.

Ditto the tens of billions we waste on Egypt, Israel, Pakistan ad nauseum YEAR AFTER YEAR, yet the crazed Republic Party NEVER opposes wasting our scarce dollars on pork overseas. They just hate Americans who lose their jobs and then get unemployment insurance. It's just pathetically sick and twised.

Posted by: mongolovesheriff | December 9, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Repubes are such hypocrites, they claim they want tax cuts but yet they are are the ones who ran up all the bills how can you cut taxes when the only ones who are making any money are the rich. let them pay the fulking bills that they created.

Posted by: honeyradio | December 9, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

"The ignorant republicans clearly don't give a crap about the troops.
Posted by: dem4life1 | December 9, 2010 9:52 AM"

Wrong, they care about the troop it was the "ignorant Democrats" that had to attach unrelated amendments(riders) to the Bill that were controversial and should have been proposed as "stand alone" Bills.
Such as the the Don't Ask Don't Tell and other legislation not related to "funding" our Troops.

I am sick of both Parties taking on "controversial Legislation" to "must pass" Bills.

If I were a member of Congress I would vote no on any Bill that attempts to pass unrelated legislation by tacking it on to a Bill the Majority of members would for it.

I hope Republicans stick to their guns until they take over.

"republicans holding America hostage on Tax Cuts". Strange how the Democrats have opposed the Bush Tax Cuts, for anyone, since the date Bush signed into law because they cost over a Trillion dollars in "lost revenue". Now they think is fine to extend tax cuts plus add even more costly tax credits and deductions for those families earning under $250K at a cost of over 1 Trillion dollars. But those small businesses that file individual income taxes and earn more than $250K but far less then l Million are being lumped in the Millionaire/Billionaire tax bracket.
Dear Democrats, families earning under $500,000 with 4 children to support are not "millionaires. They work just as hard for the money they earn as anyone else.

Posted by: fedupwithgovernment | December 9, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Freezes or cuts in the US defense budget, which have been much discussed recently, risk more harm than good if the DoD agency impacted already has a small budget to begin with and its work is purely humanitarian. A case in point is the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), which has an annual budget under $100 million annually and has as its sole task the recovery and identification of our missing war dead, a gargantuan task considering that our country has over 82000 missing in action, over half of which are considered recoverable. Considering how underfunded JPAC is already, a freeze or cut of its budget would be a slap in the face to the World War II, Korean, Cold War, and Vietnam families who have already waited decades for their loved ones' remains to be returned. JPAC funding must be exempted from any blanket DoD freeze or cut.

Posted by: garyngina | December 12, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Having been a life long Republican, I am sick of this school yard bull crap. When our president was in office, we gave him a boat load of support. Anything that he asked for was given to him on a silver platter and now that a Democrat is in the main office, we want to hamper our military because of two pages of saying that gays in the military should not be in there openly. That is sad and yes I agree with most that do not want gays openly in the military but at the same time I will not do it at the expense of all the other funding for the military and government DoD agencies. It just shows how many lawyers are in power and not regular people that have common sense. But then again most of the pencil neck leaders that we have did not serve in our military on both sides of the Congress Hall where they like to throw imaginary stone at one another and the cost is great for us that do not figure in there political scenarios!!

This is what we get for having life time political figures and politicians in office. I am sure that they will never pass a term bill on themselves because that would mean they would have to work like the rest of us. Congress is a waste of skin and air on this earth.

US Navy Retired

Posted by: WetFuse13485 | December 13, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

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