Senate beefs up high-tech readiness

The Senate Armed Services Committee last week called for funding increases in key high-tech defense programs and took steps to fill gaps identified during the 78-day air war in Kosovo.

In its markup of the fiscal 2001 Defense authorization bill, the committee

recommended $309.8 billion in budget authority for the Defense Department,

which is $4.5 billion more than the Clinton administration asked for in

its fiscal 2001 budget request. In their recommendation, senators included

more than $63 billion in procurement funding and more than $39 billion for

research, development, testing and evaluation.

The House and Senate must still meet to iron out differences between the

two versions of the bill.

"We cannot ignore the future as we focus on current shortfalls," said Sen.

John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "We need

to apply the many lessons learned from the air campaign in Kosovo and harness

ongoing technological advances in ways that will maintain our military superiority."

The Pentagon's experience fighting alongside NATO allies in Kosovo led the

committee to add more than $700 million to the budget to support programs

such as aircraft precision-strike capability, as well as intelligence, surveillance

and reconnaissance.

The committee added $17 million for U-2 reconnaissance aircraft sensor upgrades,

$8 million for B-2 bomber satellite communications connectivity and included

a provision authorizing 25 new Defense intelligence senior executive service

positions to address what it called acquisition deficiencies at the National

Imagery and Mapping Agency and NSA.

However, the Senate threw most of its support behind the Pentagon's unmanned

aerial vehicle programs, adding $246.3 million to accelerate development

and fielding of both ground and air UAV systems. The committee directed

the Pentagon to "aggressively" develop UAV systems so that within 10 years,

one-third of DOD's deep-strike aircraft will be UAV systems, and within

15 years, one-third of all ground combat vehicles will be unmanned.

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