Defense authorization bills head to conference committee

The House and Senate each approved fiscal 2004 authorization bills yesterday that call for $400.5 billion in funding for the Defense Department and national security programs of the Energy Department.

The two legislative bodies must negotiate a common bill to present to President Bush in the next several weeks.

The two bills'HR 1588 and S 1047'include more than $60 billion in research and technology programs, more than $70 billion in weapons purchases and $10 billion for science and technology systems.

The bills also call for acquisition reforms that would benefit small businesses and modernize the Pentagon's civilian personnel system.

'With this legislation, we continue our commitment to defend our homeland and take care of our military personnel,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 'The legislation provides for today's defense needs while addressing tomorrow's threats.'

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