House, Senate send Defense appropriations bill to president

By Amy Klamper, CongressDaily

The House and Senate Thursday approved the fiscal 2005 $417.5 billion Defense appropriations conference bill, sending it to President Bush for his signature. The House passed it on a voice vote and the Senate approved it 96-0.

The bill, which represents a funding cut of $1.6 billion from Bush's budget request, includes $25 billion in emergency funding for troops and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also initiates a major recapitalization of Army and Marine Corps ground forces, providing $1.5 billion above the president's budget request for combat and tactical vehicles, helicopters, and ammunition production. Of this amount, $235.8 million is intended to pay for National Guard and reserve equipment.

House and Senate appropriators provided $1.4 billion for the Navy's DD(X) destroyer, including $221 million for advance procurement of the first DD(X) ship. The bill also adds $84.4 million for advance procurement of a second DD(X), and includes $457.1 million for the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship, an increase of $105 million over the budget request to fully fund construction of the first vessel. However, lawmakers trimmed $220 million from the

Navy's VXX presidential helicopter project because of program schedule delays.

The bill fully funds the Air Force's $3.6 billion request for 24 F/A-22 fighters and $2.7 billion for 15 C-17 aircraft, an increase of one aircraft above the president's request. The cost will be offset by a $158 million cut to other Air Force aviation procurement programs.

The appropriators also added $100 million for a generic "tanker replacement transfer fund," though House appropriators had initially designated that funding specifically for the acquisition of Boeing KC-767 tankers. The bill adds $30 million for three additional Predator unmanned aerial vehicles and $60 million for the continued development of the B-2 and a next-generation bomber program and includes $586.5 million for the Joint Unmanned Combat Aerial System program.

Lawmakers slashed funding for the Air Force's space-based radar program, sending it back to the drawing board with only $75 million of the president's $328 million request.

House and Senate appropriators approved termination of the Army's Comanche helicopter, with the money going to other Army aviation programs. The bill also funds $2.9 billion for the Army's Future Combat System, $268 million below the president's request, though it fully funds the program's Non Line-of-Sight Cannon and directs its fielding by no later than 2010. The conferees also established a new funding line for the program's Non Line-of-Sight Launch System with $58 million.

Another $10 billion is set aside for missile defense, representing a cut of $183 million to the president's request.