House Committee approves DOD budget

House Armed Services Committee's recommended Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal 2005

The House Armed Services Committee approved a $422.2 billion budget for fiscal 2005 that includes more than $10 billion for science and technology efforts.

The bill passed by a unanimous 60-0 vote on May 13. In a statement released this morning, committee chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said the money spent in the next fiscal year will have an immense impact on the success of combat operations, but cautioned that it may not be enough.

Lawmakers authorized money for many of the Defense Department's highest technology priorities. For example, the committee recommended adding $30 million for jammers that would prevent improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from detonating, increased unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveillance capabilities by $192 million, and more than $10.5 billion for science and technology efforts of the services and various Defense agencies.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, extensively used for the first time in Iraq and Afghanistan, will see their funding increase significantly, should the House bill be approved and passed. The House committee recommended:

$147 million for the Army's Shadow UAV enhancements in both research and development and procurement — $20 million more than the president's request

$403 million for the Air Force's Predator UAVs in both research and development and procurement — $176 million more than the president's request

$707.5 million for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (JUCAS) research and development, which was on par with the president's budget request

Science and technology has come into its own, with the committee recommending higher-than-requested funding totaling $517 million across the board to the services. The committee's recommendations include $2.1 billion for the Army, an increase of $304 million over the requested amount; $1.8 billion for the Navy, an increase of $201.7 million; $2 billion for the Air Force, an increase of $114 million; and $5.2 billion for other Defense agencies, an increase of $64.5 million.

The one notable loser in the science and technology funding was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA will still receive $2.9 billion in science and technology funds if the bill passes intact, but that number is $204 million less than was requested. There was no immediate explanation available as to why DARPA science and technology funding received the cut recommendation.

The committee also increased funding for communications and command and control elements, which were widely hailed as critical in the future battle space during combat operations. The president's budget request included $12.4 million to purchase improved high-frequency radios that speed long-range tactical communications. It is the Army's preferred replacement for legacy radio systems until the Joint Tactical Radio System is available. The committee more than doubled the recommended funding to the program, increasing it to $36.6 million.

The need to get technology from the laboratory into the hands of the warfighter has long been a bugaboo with which DOD officials have wrestled. The proposed bill adds $100 million to the budget for the DOD Quick Reaction Special Projects program to accelerate development of countermeasures for IEDs such as roadside bombs, which have been one of the biggest causes of coalition casualties in Iraq. It will also provide real-time surveillance of suspected enemy activities, and counter rocket and mortar threats.

Committee members also authorized $25 billion in supplemental funding related to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It is clear that the department will need more than $25 billion to get through the next fiscal year," Hunter said. "But there is a valid point to the [Bush] administration's position that, given the multiple variables involved, neither they nor us can accurately predict exactly what will be needed to get through the entire year."

The bill also calls for the largest increase in active-duty personnel in decades, including increasing the active duty Army by 30,000 and the Marine Corps by 9,000.

The bill is expected to be considered on the floor of the House next week. If it passes, it will then be sent to a conference committee between members of the House and Senate, who will produce a compromise bill that takes elements from both the House- and Senate-approved bills.

The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its mark-up of the Defense Authorization Bill on May 7, and came out with a similar, $422.2 billion version of the bill. The Senate has not yet scheduled a full roll-call vote on its version of the authorization bill.

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