A US Senate Armed Services subcommittee wants to add funds to special operations forces. Here, US Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit force reconnaissance platoon conduct small arms training. (Cpl. Eric R. Martin/US Marine Corps)
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WASHINGTON — A US Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a measure allowing the Pentagon to spend billions on its most lethal forces while also clearing them to target the Boko Haram organization.
The Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee easily approved its portion of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a day before the full panel will begin cobbling together the entire bill.
Subcommittee Chairwoman Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said during a 14-minute mark-up session that a portion of the NDAA would authorize the Defense Department to spend $7.7 billion for elite special operations forces, which have played a major role in America’s post-9/11 conflicts and the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program.
It also shifts funds from some programs to improve the readiness of special operations forces.
Hagan said it includes language that would, if included in the final version of the 2015 NDAA, authorize US special forces to target the Boko Haram group, which has kidnapped over 200 young schoolgirls in Nigeria. Obama administration officials told another Senate panel last week that the group has become a top US national security priority.
Notably, the subcommittee added $20 million, which it shifted from other parts of the Pentagon budget, into US Southern Command accounts to meet that command’s needs, Hagan said.
She said it includes funds to improve US Special Operations Command’s fleet of armed MQ-9 Reaper drones. Hagan did not disclose how much was added for the General Atomics-made drones, but the House version of the NDAA includes $120 million for eight aircraft above the Pentagon’s request.
At the start of the markup, Hagan stated her satisfaction that the session was being held in an open and transparent manner. The subcommittee unanimously approved a package of amendments that had been offered by Hagan and Ranking Member Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., but aides declined to provide those amendments to reporters. ■