Democrats seek more funds for F/A-18 fighter

As the House Appropriations Committee prepares to mark up the 2007 emergency war supplemental, defense appropriations committee staff members are proposing the inclusion of $192 million for three additional F/A-18 fighter aircraft to replace combat losses.

Defense appropriations staffers also increased funds by $51 million above the Navy’s $174 million request for the reconstitution of equipment for Construction Battalion units, known as Seabees. The Chief of Naval Operations highlighted that need in recent testimony before Congress.

Defense appropriators could up funding for Army procurement by $123 million to $15 billion. The recommendations include $997 million for the Abrams tank upgrades; $858 million for Stryker vehicles; $994 million for tactical radios; $2.2 billion for tactical trucks; $636 million for Bradley fighting vehicle upgrades and armor protection; and $682 million to replace expended ammunition.  

The committee will add $311 million, for a total of $1.4 billion, to allow for the purchase of the coveted Mine Resistant Ambush Protected family of vehicles.

In the memo, the committee staff recommended reducing the research and development funds by $400 million, from a requested $1.4 billion. Cuts are recommended for military research and development programs that duplicate the work of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device office and for programs that are not set to deliver until 2009 or later.

The House appropriations staff would deny funding for two Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and five of the Navy’s electronic attack airplanes, two requests that raised lawmakers’ ire.

As the House tackles the emergency-supplemental markup, Sen. Judd Gregg’s (R-N.H.) office is arguing to remove the “emergency” designation from several defense projects requested in the supplemental. Among the targets are an upgrade program for the Abrams tank that started in 1994 and a recapitalization program for the Bradley armored vehicle bases, which the Budget Committee ranking member does not consider an unforeseen expense.

Meanwhile, the request to buy one V-22 Osprey is neither necessary nor urgent, according to a report released by Gregg’s office.

Similar to members in the House, Gregg’s office criticized the choice to request the electronic attack aircraft and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in the supplemental. “Neither the insurgents in Iraq nor al Qaeda have an air force or radars,” the report read.

According to Gregg’s office, the $3.1 billion promised by defense appropriators in the supplemental makes up for the gap in funding for the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round. “While base closure is military spending, it is hardly a necessary, sudden, urgent and unforeseen expenditure,” the report read. BRAC funding in the continuing resolution includes $1 billion over the Pentagon’s 2006 request.

“If Congress adds all these items on the wish list, the war supplemental will not be recognizable,” the report read.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration sent Congress an amendment to the supplemental in which it scrapped its request for the JSFs, five of the electronic attack planes, five C-130 J cargo aircraft and one V-22.