Election-year defense budget spares ships, planes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon pleas for flexibility in keeping the military ready to fight with less money are largely being ignored by a Republican-led House committee that wants to keep older weapons alive and preserve generous personnel benefits.

In a day-night marathon session Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee pushed to complete a $601 billion defense bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 that authorizes spending for ships, planes, missiles and pay.

The blueprint spares excess military bases, the Cold War-era U-2 spy plane, Navy cruisers and an 11th aircraft carrier, as parochial interests prevail in an election year.

The debate also produced fierce policy discussions on serious matters such as sexual assault in the ranks, as well as more lighthearted discussions on whether sailors and Marines should get to smoke.

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