Congress cuts funds for life-saving radio

Congress slashed $20 million from the Pentagon's budget for a radio designed to help downed pilots stranded behind enemies lines call for help as well as automatically pinpoint their position and relay that information to rescue aircraft.

Congress did not provide any reasons for the cuts in a report on the fiscal 2000 Defense Department appropriations bill passed Wednesday by the House. However, earlier this year the Pentagon's operational test and evaluation directorate called the version of the Combat Survivor Evader Locator it tested "not effective and not suitable." The Pentagon intends to acquire more than 50,000 CSEL radios for Army, Navy and Air Force air crews from the Space and Missile Systems Division of Boeing Co. under a $220 million contract.

Pilots interviewed by FCW this year on aircraft carriers operating in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf, as well as air crews based in Kuwait, said the lack of a reliable rescue radio equipped with a Global Positioning System receiver had forced them to purchase commercial GPS receivers, often out of their own funds [FCW, March 29].

The Air Force recently completed a test of a new version of the CSEL designed to correct deficiencies identified during earlier tests and is expected to disclose the results of those tests by the end of this month.

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