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News Briefs

Army Is Told To Plan For Shorter Tours In Iraq

By Thom Shanker

The New York Times WASHINGTON

The acting secretary of the Army has told the service to begin drawing up plans to shorten the 12-month tour lengths of soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The memo dated Oct. 8 from Les Brownlee, the acting Army secretary, makes clear that those reductions would not be taken until the insurgency in Iraq diminishes and the capabilities of Iraqi security forces improves.

But the memo clearly emphasizes the urgency of having plans ready. It comes as the Army wrestles with two powerful, competing needs: finding enough soldiers to fulfill commitments in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and finding ways to make those tours less onerous for the soldiers and their families.

“As we continue to develop Iraqi security forces in both size and capabilities, the opportunity presents itself to address both the size of our committed forces and the tour lengths of those soldiers assigned,” Brownlee wrote in the memo to Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff.

Defense Firms Get Tax Cut

By Edmund L. Andrews

The New York Times WASHINGTON

A little-noticed provision in the sweeping corporate tax bill that passed Congress last week will reduce taxes at two major military contractors by nearly $500 million over the next 10 years.

The provision, which primarily benefits General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, will allow shipbuilders to postpone their taxes for years on profits from building ships and submarines for the Navy.

The new provision will also benefit a handful of major shipyards, all owned by one of the two defense conglomerates. They include General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine, which it acquired in 1995, and its Electric Boat division in Groton, Conn., as well as Northrop’s Newport News shipyard in Virginia.

Under the bill, Navy shipbuilders will be allowed once again to defer paying most federal income taxes on a project until the contract is completed. Because it takes about five years to build an aircraft carrier and three years to build a destroyer, the shipyards will be able to delay their tax bills for years, allowing more opportunity to offset taxes against future losses.

The measure’s primary sponsor was Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who said she was determined to protect Bath Iron Works, one of her state’s largest employers.

“This provision takes dramatic steps to remedy the inequity of how naval shipbuilders pay their taxes,” Snowe said in a statement last week, just after House and Senate negotiators agreed to include the provision in a broader bill that will shower $140 billion in tax cuts across almost every segment of industry.