Senate backs more Defense R&D than Bush sought

Pentagon would receive $70.4 billion for R&D; Bush proposed $69.4 billion.

The Senate has rejected the budget President Bush requested for the Pentagon to purchase more equipment in fiscal 2006, but lawmakers approved more funding for research and development programs than Bush proposed.

The chamber's version of the appropriations bill for the Defense Department (H.R. 2863) includes $75.8 billion to buy aircraft, ships, information technology systems and other military equipment -- $800 million less than Bush requested and $1.9 billion less than last year. The bill also includes $8.6 billion in emergency procurement spending for efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Senate passed the measure earlier this month but still must reconcile differences with the House version passed in June.

Lawmakers voted to increase spending for research, development, testing and evaluation over both last year's budget and Bush's request. The Pentagon would receive $70.4 billion for the initiatives. Bush proposed $69.4 billion, and the department received $70 billion last year.

The bill also includes $92.3 million in emergency funding for R&D initiatives this year.

The measure would provide a total of $445.6 billion for the Pentagon and its programs next year, including $50 billion to fight terrorism abroad, $3.9 billion in emergency funding to protect the country from an avian flu pandemic and $1.3 billion in emergency funding for National Guard and Reserve Equipment. The spending would be $7 billion less than Bush requested and $939 million less than last year.

The Senate voted to fully fund programs to purchase new equipment next year, including 24 F-22 raptor aircraft, 15 C-17 transports and 41 Blackhawk helicopters. Lawmakers said the military could spend $8.8 billion on ships and $422 million to buy equipment for the National Guard and Reserve.

For emergencies this fiscal year, the military can spend: $6.7 million on an unmanned aerial vehicle; $1.1 billion for Army radio systems; $245 million for Army night-vision equipment; $120 million for Marine Corps communications equipment; $250 million for Marine Corps radio systems; and $90 million for the division's night-vision equipment.

Of the $70.4 billion for R&D, senators said they want to reduce funding for a satellite program initiated by the Office of Force Transformation, the division focused on innovative ways to address 21st-century threats. The satellite program received $836 million last year, but lawmakers decided to cut $250 million for next year because of "concerns over technical maturity."

The bill also would reduce R&D for a joint tactical radio system by $236.3 million because of uncertainties.

Other R&D programs include: $174.6 million for Army medical research; $3.3 billion to develop future combat systems; $39 million for new devices to protect Army vehicles; and $17.8 million to enhance the Air Force's combat capabilities.

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