Negotiators agree to buy more F-22s, Zumwalt destroyers

House and Senate negotiators on the fiscal 2009 Defense authorization bill have resolved differences between their versions of the Pentagon policy measure, readying a compromise measure for a vote on the House floor.

Senate leaders also hope to pass the bill, which has been stripped of any obvious veto bait, and send it to the president before Congress adjourns for the elections.

The final authorization bill trims $104.7 million from the Army's $3.6 billion request for the Future Combat Systems, according to a summary of the bill. The House had cut $200 million from the Pentagon's request, but the Senate authorized full funding for the program.

The bill provides $2.5 billion for a third DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer and adds $350 million for DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class spare parts.

The Navy decided in the summer to end the DDG-1000 program after building the first two ships and buy more DDG-51s. But service officials reversed course on the issue.

Neither the House Armed Services Committee nor the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved full funding for the third DDG-1000 in fiscal 2009. But their counterparts on the Senate side agreed to the $2.5 billion requested by the administration.

House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., said Tuesday that he and Senate appropriators had agreed to partial funding of the third DDG-1000 in fiscal 2009, with the remainder of the money presumably to be appropriated in fiscal 2010.

House leaders said they hope to bring the Defense spending bill to the floor today as part of a broader funding package.

On other shipbuilding programs, negotiators on the authorization measure agreed to add $600 million for advanced procurement for two LPD-17 amphibious warfare ships. Murtha said his spending bill provides partial funding for one LPD-17.

The final authorization bill also authorizes two T-AKE auxiliary dry cargo carriers requested by the Navy, as well as funding for a Virginia-class submarine. And the bill adds $300 million in advanced procurement funding for the Virginia-class program.

For aircraft programs, the bill cut $831.8 million from the Air Force's next-generation tanker program and redirected the funds to other, higher priorities.

House and Senate authorizers agreed to the $2.9 billion sought by the Pentagon to buy 20 F-22 Raptor fighter jets, a procurement program that enjoys broad support on the Hill. They added a House-passed provision authorizing $523 million in advance procurement for another 20 aircraft in fiscal 2010 -- planes the Pentagon has not planned on acquiring. The bill includes $2.1 billion for six C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes not requested by the Pentagon.

In addition, the final authorization measure reduces funding for the proposed European missile defense sites by $246.3 million and authorizes no funding for the proposed Space Test Bed, a key element of the program to develop space-based missile defenses.

To ensure passage of the bill, House and Senate negotiators opted to avert a stand-off with the White House over several provisions that drew veto threats. They either watered down provisions aimed at assuaging White House concerns or stripped them entirely from the bill, said several aides, who were unable to provide details.

Two specific provisions in both the House and Senate bills that would have triggered a veto would have limited the use of security contractors in war zones and prevented the hiring of contractors to interrogate suspected terrorists or other detainees.

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