House bill beefs up Defense R&D

House bill beefs up Defense R&D

The House today approved its final version of the combined $401.3 billion Defense authorization bill. It emphasizes transforming the military after what some legislators term years of neglect.

The bill, approved by a margin of 362 to 40, covers DOD and the Energy Department's national security programs. It approves several controversial provisions that were held up in House-Senate negotiations for weeks, such as 'Buy American' incentives and a provision allowing the Air Force to lease 20 tankers from Boeing Co. and buy 80 more.

The Senate will vote on the bill next week. Then it will go to President Bush for final approval.

'We are slowly but surely transforming and rebuilding our military after years of neglect by the previous administration,' said Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 'Much remains to be done to counter years of cuts to procurement accounts, force structure and readiness.'

The House measure raises spending by more than $12 billion over fiscal 2003 for procurement, operation, maintenance, research, development, testing and evaluation.

The Buy American legislation, proposed by Hunter, initially sought to mandate that 65 percent of all defense products purchased by the Pentagon must come from U.S. manufacturers, compared with 50 percent under current law.

The House compromised on that provision, but the key modifications have not yet been posted. Other components of the authorization bill approved by the House include:

  • $10.7 billion for Defense science and technology

  • A 4.1 percent pay raise for troops

  • Reforms to the government procurement system, which would let all federal agencies, not just DOD, take non-contract approaches to research and develop new technology prototypes to fight terrorism.

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