Senate's defense bill may fall $11B short of Bush's request
By Alan Fram
The White House complained yesterday that the Senate's $355.4 billion defense bill provides less than President Bush wants, but said it wants lawmakers to approve the measure anyway.
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Sen. Dan Inouye is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee.
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Reflecting the renewed emphasis on defense sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon would get $34.4 billion more than it received this year. Accounts for military personnel, procurement, research, and operations and maintenance would see increases from 9 percent to 17 percent, healthy boosts when reborn federal deficits are making money scarce for many domestic programs.
"First and foremost, we must be sure we provide what the men and women in uniform need," said Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee that wrote the bill.
The measure provides $11.4 billion less than Bush requested. Most of the difference $10 billion is for a wartime contingency fund the president proposed, which he would spend as he likes. Lawmakers of both parties are unwilling to cede such power to the White House.
"The administration is very concerned that the committee did not include the $10 billion appropriation to sustain the global war on terrorism," said a statement by the White House budget office. Even so, it said it favors Senate passage so a compromise bill can be written with the House.
The GOP-run House overwhelmingly approved a similar bill on June 27. Lawmakers from both chambers have said they will consider the $10 billion contingency fund later.
The bill includes $6.9 billion to continue work on a system for shielding the United States from incoming missiles. In a provision Bush opposes, the bill would create a separate $814 million fund he could use either for missile defense bringing the total to his full request or for fighting terrorism.
In some departures from Bush, the bill would provide:
- $3.3 billion, $600 million more than Bush, to purchase 15 C-17 cargo aircraft for the Air Force, instead of the 12 he proposed.
- $3.2 billion for 48 F/A-18 Super Hornet attack fighters for the Navy, $100 million more than Bush sought for 44 aircraft.
- $315 million for four KC-130J refueling planes for the Navy. Bush requested no such money.
- $250 million to buy 21 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters for the Army, $96 million and nine more helicopters than Bush sought.
The measure would also allow the purchase of 23 F-22 stealth fighters for the Air Force and 11 V-22 tilt-rotor Ospreys for the Air Force and Marines, as Bush proposed.
It would provide the same $417 million Bush wants to help former Soviet states dismantle and protect their nuclear weapons. Like the administration now favors, it would shift money from the now discontinued Crusader artillery system to other programs where long-range weapons are being designed.
There would also be money for a 4.1 percent military pay raise, the same as Bush requested.
The bill is also dotted with spending that lawmakers have carved out for projects important to their home states.