Congress mulls boosting Bush's Defense spending request

The House late last week was considering a fiscal 2004 authorization bill that recommends $400.5 billion in funding for the Defense Department and the national security programs of the Energy Department.

Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee approved HR 1588, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, by a 58-2 vote and sent it to the floor. The panel supported most of the recommendations in President's Bush budget proposal, but called for additional funding on some key Defense programs heavily reliant on IT.

Earlier this month, the Senate Armed Services Committee also completed its markup of the Defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2004 as well. Just like its House counterpart, the Senate committee recommends a spending plan of $400.5 billion in budget authority for Defense programs and systems.

If approved, that would represent a $17.9 billion increase over congressional funding last year.

The House bill 'bolsters our national security by striking a balance between modernizing our existing forces and investing in so-called transformational capabilities,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee. 'The fact is, we are always evolving and transforming; the key is balancing short-term risk with long-term strategy.'

The committee recommended $10.9 billion for Defense science and technology programs'a $662 million increase over Bush's proposal'so the military can keep a technological edge over enemy forces, Hunter said.

'Defense science and technology programs are critical to maintaining U.S. military technology superiority in the face of evolving threats,' he said.

'The administration's budget request for science and technology of 2.7 percent of the total DOD budget does not meet the goal of 3 percent established by the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review,' he said.

The committee also recommended a $27 million increase to the E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), which, if approved, would guarantee $63 million for 2004.

And the committee supports providing $1.7 billion for the Army's Future Combat System, but delayed the funding until the Army provides 'sufficient detail to Congress justifying the budget request.'

Among other recommendations were:
  • $104.5 million for LAN upgrades to several Army installations, $8 million more than the administration requested

  • $1 billion for development of the Navy's DD(X) high-tech, destroyer-class warship

  • $838.1 million for advanced extremely high-frequency military satellite communications

  • $2.2 billion each for the Navy and Air Force for work on the Joint Strike Fighter program to develop a high-technology combat aircraft.

More increases

The Senate committee, meanwhile, proposed that $75.6 billion of the total allocation be spent on procurement and $63.2 billion be used to fund research, development, testing and evaluation of new systems.

Both the committees' recommendations are increases over President Bush's proposal.

'This bill sends a strong signal of support to our men and women in uniform'from the Balkans to the Middle East to Korea and those standing watch here at home'that we appreciate their sacrifice and honor their service,' said Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the committee.

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