- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

The Senate yesterday overwhelmingly approved legislation that grants President Bush's demand to kill the Army's $11 billion Crusader artillery system with a few strings attached.
The compromise amendment, which the White House belatedly backed, does not give the administration the clean kill it wanted.
The bill does delete all of $475 million in Crusader money in the 2003 defense budget. The money is shifted to the developing Future Combat System, a switch the Bush administration sought.
But the bill also allows the Army to finish studies of alternatives to the 40-ton self-propelled howitzer red tape that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had hoped to avoid. Pentagon civilians already have decided on Crusader alternatives.
Still, administration officials yesterday called the vote a win.
The 96-3 vote came after Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, struck a compromise with the administration. He and Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, met a White House demand by deleting a requirement that the Pentagon seek permission from four congressional committees before spending the $475 million.
The House has voted to continue Crusader funding. The Crusader's fate will be decided in a House-Senate bill conference on the fiscal 2003 defense authorization bill. But since the White House has threatened a veto, and virtually the entire Senate approved the compromise, the Crusader is now certain to be killed.
A spokesman for Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., Oklahoma Republican, said the congressman still plans to fight for the gun's survival.
"The House will continue to work its will," the spokesman said. "This is not the final word."
Mr. Rumsfeld announced the Crusader's cancellation in May, carrying out Mr. Bush's order to transform the military by canceling some systems to invest in more futuristic ones. In this case, the plan is to put Crusader technologies into the Future Combat System armored vehicles and other components that would make up lighter Army brigades in 2008. Money will also be invested in precision-guided rockets.
The Army opposed cancellation, saying the service sorely needs a new close-battle artillery system to defend its soldiers.
"I'm embarrassed how obsolete it is," said Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, referring to the existing Paladin artillery piece. The Oklahoma congressional delegation has fought for the Crusader, the assembly and testing of which would take place in their state.
"I don't care what the replacement is, but I want our military people to have a better system," said Mr. Nickles, signaling a realization that the battle to save the Crusader is lost.
He scolded Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff for not consulting on the Crusader's axing with Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, and Army Secretary Thomas White.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, the Crusader's strongest Senate defender, has refocused his efforts on saving some Crusader technologies for future systems.
Under the compromise amendment, all sides would get something.
The White House would see the Crusader go away. United Defense Inc., the Crusader producer, would be able to develop technologies for the Future Combat System. And Fort Sill, Okla., would be a test site.
The vote came the same day the White House sent a written veto threat to the Senate on the pending $379 billion defense bill.
The three-page document from the White House Office of Management and Budget said advisers would recommend a Bush veto if lawmakers approve a Senate amendment to slash $814 million from missile-defense spending.
Defending the nation and deployed troops against ballistic-missile attacks is a top priority of the president's. His determination increased after September 11.
Of the amendment approved yesterday, the letter said, "The administration welcomes the Senate's support that will reallocate funding to the [Armys] Objective Force from the Crusader program."
The letter was drafted before Mr. Warner crafted the compromise that the White House accepted.


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