Panels Back Billions For Weapons Systems
Money for huge weapons projects that will soak up tens of billions of dollars over the rest of the decade was approved by key panels on both sides of the Capitol on Tuesday, a reminder that budget-cutting fervor has not diminished Congress’ traditional interest in bigticket programs.
On the House side, the Appropriations Committee approved a $244.1 billion defense bill for 1996 that includes $493 million more than President Clinton requested for the B-2 bomber program, an extra $200 million for the F-22 fighter, to be assembled in Marietta, Ga., near House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s district, and an additional $600 million for missile defense.
The same bill contains funding for the Army’s Comanche helicopter, the Marine Corps’ V-22 tiltrotor craft and the Navy’s F-18 and adds funds not requested by the Defense Department for Blackhawk and Kiowa helicopters for the Army as well as for F-15E fighters.
On the Senate side, the energy and water appropriations subcommittee restored $37 million cut by the House for detailed engineering on a $1 billion facility in California at which nuclear weapons could be tested without detonating them.
The funding for Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility was part of a $20.2 billion spending bill that funds the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs along with harbor, river and water projects.
The bill also reduces funding for solar and renewable energy research by one-third.
In the House Appropriations Committee, efforts by Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., to cut spending for Lockheed-Martin’s F-22 fighter and missile defense initiatives were defeated handily, with numerous Democrats joining Republicans to block the reductions. The vote against cutting the F-22 was 32-8, a tribute to the support that even some liberals are willing to give to a project that will provide thousands of jobs nationwide.