WASHINGTON - The Senate has approved a comprehensive defense bill that would crack down on sexual assault in the military.
The legislation now heads to President Obama for his signature.
The White House expressed support for the legislation, which would provide $552.1 billion for the regular military budget and $80.7 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations, a reflection of deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in a conflict lasting more than a decade.
It also would give Obama additional flexibility in deciding the fate of terror suspects at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but would leave the prison open.
Under the bill, commanders would be stripped of their authority to overturn jury convictions, and victims of sexual assault would be given a legal counsel.
"Although the bill includes a number of provisions that restrict or limit the Defense Department's ability to align military capabilities and force structure with the president's strategy and implement certain efficiencies, overall the administration is pleased with the modifications and improvements" that address its objections to earlier versions, the White House said in a statement.
The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last week on a strong bipartisan vote.
The legislation would:
Authorize a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel and cover combat pay and other benefits.
Strip military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, require a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case, and require that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.