House passes DOD spending bill

The House passed a $409 billion appropriations bill this week for the Defense Department in fiscal 2006.

The legislation appropriated $363.7 billion for defense spending and $45.3 billion in emergency funds to cover costs related to the war on terrorism for the first six months next year. It passed by a vote of 398-19.

The House Appropriations Committee agreed with many of the recommendations made by the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee in their versions of the 2006 Defense Authorization bills approved in May.

The committee cut $400 million from the Army’s Future Combat System program, the service’s next-generation of 18 lighter, rapid-deployable manned and unmanned air and ground systems that would fight as one connected by a fast, secure communications network. It also slashed $400 million from the Air Force’s Transformational Satellite Communications initiative to deploy laser communications in space to speed data sharing.

The committee was also critical of the maligned Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program. It cut $340 million from the initiative to develop software-programmable radios that transmit across the radio spectrum.

The committee directed DOD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to issue a report to the congressional defense committees by Sept. 30 on the status of JTRS. The report must address several points, including plans by the services regarding cost and schedule changes to the program, radios they need in the interim and an assessment of changes to the JTRS waiver process.

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