WASHINGTON - The US Congress approved an annual defense policy bill on Friday that authorizes American training for Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting Islamic State rebels and sets overall defense spending at $577 billion, including $64 billion for wars abroad.
The Senate passed the legislation 89-11 and sent it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The House of Representatives last week endorsed the measure, which sets defense policy and authorizes spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, but does not actually appropriate funding.
The bill approves a Pentagon base budget of $496 billion, in line with Obama's request, plus nearly $64 billion for conflicts abroad including the war in Afghanistan. It also authorizes $17.9 billion for Energy Department nuclear weapons work.
The measure formally endorses the Pentagon's plan to vet, train and equip a moderate Syrian opposition military force to fight Islamic State rebels, defend the Syrian people and promote conditions for a negotiated end to Syria's civil war.
The US military program to train and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants also was authorized.