House panel snubs Pentagon on defense spending

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon faces election-year roadblocks in persuading Congress to back proposed cuts in defense spending as the military deals with scaled-back budgets.

The House panel that decides defense spending on Thursday unveiled a $570 billion blueprint that spares the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, gives military personnel a 1.8 percent pay raise and rebuffs Pentagon efforts to make troops and their families pay slightly more for housing and groceries at on-base commissaries.

The spending bill echoes the broad defense policy bill that the House overwhelmingly passed last week. Senior military leaders have warned that sparing parochial programs will undermine their ability to train soldiers, sailors and airmen to fight, but lawmakers are determined to protect favorite weapons.

The Pentagon had sought a more modest 1 percent pay raise and a slight increase in out-of-pocket costs for housing and food, citing skyrocketing costs of personnel benefits.

The bill also bars the transfer to the U.S. of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Barack Obama has tried to close the facility since his inauguration more than five years ago.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee is expected to approve the bill on Friday. To pay for the changes, the panel cut the operations and maintenance account by $1.4 billion from the Obama administration's request.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the defense subcommittee, said the bill provides the Pentagon and the intelligence community "with the resources needed to maintain and modernize the best equipped and most capable military in the world today and in the future."

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