President George Bush signed two appropriations bills on Oct. 23, providing funds for the Dept. of Defense and military construction programs. The bills are the first signed into law for fiscal 2003 which began Oct. 1. Eleven other spending bills remain pending in Congress. Lawmakers earlier approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through Nov. 22. Congress is in recess until after the Nov. 5 election.

President Bush, flanked by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, signs defense spending bills (photo courtesy of the White House)

"The Dept. of Defense and the military construction appropriations bills I sign today will make our country more secure, make our military forces more prepared, and reward military families for their sacrifice in service," Bush said during the Rose Garden ceremony.

The milcon bill provides $10.5 billion for building and upgrading military installations and for family housing units. Although the measure provides $835 million more than Bush requested, it represents a 1% decrease from the 2002 total. Within that sum, DOD family housing operation, maintenance and construction received $4.2 billion, a 2% boost. That includes $1.3 billion for construction of new family housing units and improvements to existing facilities. Another $2.9 billion will go for family housing operation and maintenance.

Other military construction work, including barracks, ports, airport runways and health-care facilities, will receive $5.6 billion, down 5% from the fiscal 2002 mark. The 2003 total includes $1.2 billion for barracks, $799 million for antiterrorism and force protection, $151 million for hospital and medical facilities and $18 million for child development centers.

The measure also includes $501 million for environmental cleanup at former military bases that have been closed. That includes $20 million to expedite environmental cleanup at those sites.

The $355-billion defense spending bill includes $1.3 billion for environmental cleanup at active posts, about the same funding the program received in 2002.