- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Senate panel yesterday endorsed a larger pay raise for military personnel than President Bush had recommended and made cuts in the president’s request for several weapons programs.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved $459.6 billion in spending for fiscal 2008, about $3.5 billion less than the White House requested. Among the programs trimmed were the Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, which is behind schedule, and the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, whose costs have exceeded projections.

The Defense Department’s military and civilian workers would receive a 3.5 percent pay raise in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Mr. Bush recommended a 3 percent increase.

The spending bill, similar to one passed by the House, must go to the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate floor before being reconciled with the House version. That is unlikely to happen by Oct. 1, lawmakers said, and a stopgap spending measure likely will be needed to keep the military funded for a time.

The appropriations bill does include money targeted for the war in Iraq, which will be handled in a supplemental spending bill that Mr. Bush will request this fall. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat and subcommittee chairman, urged his colleagues not to use the fiscal 2008 spending bill as a vehicle to debate the Iraq war, and they complied.

The measure endorsed yesterday would add nearly $950 million to Mr. Bush’s request for the Defense Health Program, including an extra $486 million for military hospitals.

It adds $1 billion to the administration’s request for new equipment for the National Guard and Reserves, which face “serious shortfalls,” Mr. Inouye said.

The bill would add $470 million to a multiyear purchase plan of Virginia Class submarines and fully fund the Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey aircraft program. It would fully fund the Future Combat Systems, which Mr. Inouye called the Army’s highest priority. It would buy 20 F-22 fighter planes and 12 Joint Strike Fighters.

But the bill would devote $8.5 billion to a missile-defense program — $310 million less than the president requested.

The measure would appropriate nearly $142 billion for operations and maintenance, which is $962 million below the administration’s request. More than $98 billion would go to procurement, which is $1.4 billion below Mr. Bush’s request.

About $1.5 billion would go to the destruction of chemical agents and weapons, which is $62 million more than the president recommended.

The subcommittee adopted an amendment by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, to order a review of how nuclear weapons are handled. Earlier this month, a B-52 bomber was mistakenly armed with six nuclear warheads and flown across several states, Pentagon officials said.

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