12/11/13: The Miami Herald reports lawmakers scurried Tuesday to avoid failing to pass a defense authorization bill for the first time in more than a half-century, as the nation’s top military commander warned that further delay might imperil US troops stationed around the globe. In an unusual fast-track strategy, the bipartisan heads of the House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services committees were asking their party leaders to bring a compromise measure, which sets broad defense policies, to each chamber for an up-or-down vote with no amendments allowed. Among its key provisions, the legislation takes steps to stem the rising number of sexual assaults in the military and gives President Barack Obama increased flexibility to transfer some terrorism suspects from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to other countries. It drops the ban on transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, a Middle East nation that’s been a hub of Islamic fundamentalist activity. The legislation authorizes almost $633 billion in defense spending, slightly more than current levels, with nearly $87 billion slated for overseas operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The measure provides hardship pay to combat troops and re-enlistment bonuses for most military personnel, along with funding authority to help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons under a US-Russia accord reached in September. The accord prevented a missile strike that Obama had threatened against Syria President Bashar Assad. Programs to combat terrorism and drug trafficking in a broad swath of countries from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Colombia also receive authorization in the bill.