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July 27, 2001

Panel Endorses Military, Housing Funds

A House Armed Services panel on Friday  endorsed a $10.3 billion military construction and family housing  authorization for next year while recognizing that some of the repair  work it calls for may not be needed if Congress approves a base-closings bill.

"`To put military projects on hold ... would be foolhardy,'' said Rep. Jim  Saxton, R-N.J., chairman of the military  installations and facilities subcommittee. ``We have to provide for quality-of-life issues'' facing soldiers, sailors and their families living in substandard housing, he said.

The $10.3 billion for fiscal year 2002, which begins Oct. 1, compares with $8.8 billion this year, a 17 percent increase.

The full House Armed Services Committee is scheduled next week to complete work on the $343 billion authorization bill covering the Defense Department and nuclear arms-related work of the Energy Department.

President Bush and Pentagon  officials have said they believe about 25 percent of military installations could be cut to free money for modernization and other purposes.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said Thursday that base-closing legislation was not quite done but officials hope to get it to Congress before the August recess, which is scheduled to start Aug. 6.

Saxton noted that several members of Congress have their own base-closing bills, but there's no assurance that any would pass. He quoted one Democrat as saying a new round of closings would not get the support of a majority of Democrats.

The bill also contains provisions that would transfer land from various services and federal departments to the secretary of the Army to provide for expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. A committee aide said that would provide space for more than two decades of in-ground burials. The current cemetery space has room for burials until about 2025.

It also gives the secretary of defense authority to allow construction of an Air Force memorial on property that overlooks the Pentagon. The Navy annex is now there, but it has already been slated for demolition.

Posted: 5 August 2001