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B-2, F-16 Downed In Senate Defense Plan Targets Weapons Backed In The House Measure

The Senate on Friday passed a $268 billion defense spending plan for fiscal 1998 that would end production of the B-2 stealth bomber, the Lockheed Martin F-16 and other controversial planes.

The bill, passed on a 94-4 vote, differs sharply from the House version passed two weeks ago. The House was far more generous in funding weapons programs.

Analysts, however, predicted the two houses would not have a difficult time agreeing on a final bill later this summer, because both versions agree on the overall size of the budget.

The Senate and House bills already concur on efforts to make life easier for enlisted men and women by providing them with a pay raise, improving battle pay, and boosting the budget for base housing.

House and Senate lawmakers are certain to fight over several expensive Pentagon weapons programs, including the radar-evading B-2.

The House bill would continue production of the bat-wing-shaped airplane and plans to order nine more, while the Senate bill bars even a dime from being spent on buying the new aircraft, which costs the Air Force $1 billion apiece.

The Senate also would spend less than the House on the F-22 stealth fighter and the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor aircraft.

The House also funded production of three F-16 and 21 of Bell’s Kiowa Warrior helicopters - spending the Senate failed to agree on.

The Senate bill’s plans for major programs in fiscal 1998, which begins Oct. 1, include:

Spending $1.6 billion to continue development of the F-22, the new Air Force fighter. That amount is about $420 million less than the House bill and White House request.

Ending B-2 production. The House bill would give Northrop Grumman and its supplier $335 million more to keep the B-2 production line open. But the Senate would end the program once the 21st and final B-2 is finished.

Spending $631 million to produce six V-22 Ospreys.

Funding for nine C-17 air-lifters for the Air Force. The cost of the aircraft would be $2.2 billion and is equal to the House bill and the proposed Clinton budget.