Obama to give speech in Belfast, family to head to Dublin
US President Barack Obama will laud the US role in backing Northern Ireland's peace process in a speech in Belfast on Monday, and his wife and daughters will then head to Dublin.
Obama will be in Northern Ireland for the G8 summit, but his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia will skip the dry diplomacy to take up an invitation to head south of the border, the White House said.
The president will deliver a speech at the Waterfront convention center in Belfast, and is keen to take his first chance to discuss US help to development and society in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement.
Obama will address young people on the need to advance reconciliation so that a "hard-earned peace" is translated into lasting security and greater economic opportunity," said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
When Obama heads to the summit at Loch Erne, his family will head south, and will tour an exhibition at Dublin's Trinity College, devoted to the president's Irish ancestry, Rhodes said.
The US First Lady will also join Fionnuala Kenny, wife of Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, at a performance of Riverdance, Rhodes said.
The US First Family will be reunited with the president during a visit to Berlin on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Congress more willing to cut military pay raises, benefits
The Defense Department’s plans to slow military pay growth and increase Tricare fees may have become less objectionable to Congress in a time of tight budgets.
At a Wednesday hearing, leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel said they were not pleased with the notion of saving money by reducing benefits — but also did not say they would oppose the plans.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the personnel panel chairwoman, said it was “regrettable” that the proposed 1 percent basic pay raise for Jan. 1, 2014, would be less than the average private-sector increase and added that she is “skeptical” about Tricare fee hikes aimed mostly at working-age retirees.
Gillibrand, who took over the subcommittee in January, acknowledged the Pentagon was forced by budgetary constraints to make “difficult choices” on the budget.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the personnel panel’s ranking Republican — who in the past has thrown up roadblocks to Pentagon plans to raise Tricare enrollment fees and deductibles — said he is willing to consider increases