By KEN GUGGENHEIM
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP)--In approving a $368.7 billion defense spending
bill, the House sought to make sure older weapons systems that have
proven their value aren't prematurely discarded in the transition to
a more mobile, high-tech fighting force.
The bill, for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, cuts some
Pentagon requests for newer weapons systems in favor of continuing
some older ones. It was approved 399-19 Thursday.
It represents an increase of about 1.3 percent over the amount
approved for this fiscal year--not taking into account a $62.4
billion midyear spending bill that paid for the war in Iraq. The
2004 bill doesn't include the costs of military operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan, which probably will be financed by another spending
The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved a similar
bill Tuesday with bipartisan support. Most details of that bill will
be withheld until the full committee considers it Wednesday, but
senators described it as supporting President Bush's defense
Both bills are about $3 billion below Bush's request. Lawmakers
are expected eventually to make up this gap.
The House Appropriations defense subcommittee chairman, Rep.
Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., said the House bill ``reflects very much the
direction of the commander in chief as well as the Department of
Defense regarding the war on terrorism that we are pursuing in the
Middle East at this point but also recognizing its great threat
around the world.''
Those priorities include Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's
desire to transform the military into a sophisticated, lighter force
able to mobilize quickly in response to crises around the world.
But the House Appropriations Committee, in a report accompanying
the bill, warned against cutting existing programs too severely.
``Accelerating transformation by reducing current force structure
to pay for future systems may undermine the readiness and
capabilities of the forces we rely on today,'' it said.
The House bill includes $458 million not sought by the Bush
administration for 144 upgraded Bradley fighting vehicles, 43 Abrams
tanks and other equipment to modernize the 3rd Armored Calvary
The House included $11.5 billion for building ships, a $2.4
billion increase, including one Virginia-class submarine, the Navy's
most advanced attack submarine. It rejected an administration
request for authorization to buy seven of the submarines through
2008. Lawmakers have expressed frustration over the submarines'
rising costs and delays.
The Senate subcommittee's bill would authorize five submarines
through 2008, said Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens,
R-Alaska. It does not include the heavy equipment for the 3rd
Armored Calvary Regiment.
The subcommittee also would provide the $9.1 billion sought by
the Bush administration for missile defense. The House bill included
Both the House and Senate bills would cut $161 million from the
administration's request for $3.7 billion for F/A-22 Raptor stealth
fighter-bombers for the Air Force. The long-delayed Raptor, the Air
Force's planned replacement for the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting
Falcon, has been plagued by cost overruns and software problems.
The defense spending bill approved by the House also extends for
another year Congress' ban on the use of any funds, without further
specific consent of Congress, to implement the Pentagon's
controversial Terrorism Information Awareness program domestically
against U.S. citizens. The computer data-mining software being
developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is
supposed to scan public and private databases of commercial
transactions and personal data to provide advance warning of
Though the defense bill accounts for about one-sixth of federal
spending, it has generated little debate. After the attacks on Sept.
11, 2001, lawmakers have been reluctant to deny the Pentagon the
equipment it says it needs to defend the country.
But Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, an anti-war Democratic
presidential candidate, said the bill does little to make America
``The only thing this Congress will take care of today are the
profit-gouging defense contractors,'' he said.
Separately, a House panel approved $27.1 billion for the nation's
nuclear weapons and water and energy projects for next year. The
Senate has yet to write its energy-water bill.
The bill would provide more than Bush wanted for nuclear waste
disposal and energy research. It trims Bush's proposal for securing
the nuclear stockpiles of Russia and other countries in what
lawmakers called a protest over inefficiency, and cuts his request
for maintaining the U.S. nuclear inventory.
The defense bill number is H.R. 2658; the energy-water bill has
no number yet.
On the Net:
Bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov
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