Army VHF-FM radios would lose $100.4M in Senate bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee would cut procurement funding for VHF-FM radios used by Army tactical units by $100.4 million in its version of the 2007 war supplemental funding bill, but would keep intact the requested budget for long-range, high-frequency radios.

The committee said in its report on the funding measure that it would no longer fund Defense Department projects under supplemental budgets not executable in the current budget year. That is why the panel decided to reduce the Army’s budget request for VHF-FM Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) radios from $533.7 million to $433.2 million.

The House approved the Army’s SINCGARS budget in its version of the 2007 war supplemental bill passed March 23, but walled off $250 million until the Army reported on its strategy to best use existing industrial capacity to manufacture the radios.

The full Senate plans a vote on its version of the bill this week, with differences between the versions of the measure to be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee. Both bills contain language calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2008, and President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that sets such a timeline.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee approved the Army’s full budget request of $509.2 million for high-frequency radios and $390.7 million for the Army’s Bridge to Future Networks program, which has fielded satellite communications terminals that handle voice, video and data communications to Army infantry companies and brigades in Iraq.

The Defense Information Systems Agency would receive its full operations and maintenance budget request of $162.3 million in the committee’s version of the supplemental bill, while the House would cut $86 million that DISA had intended to use to develop an expeditionary virtual network in Iraq.

The Senate committee approved the full 2007 $2.4 billion supplemental budget request from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), but like the House, that panel expressed concerns about high-level DOD oversight of JIEDDO.

The committee was concerned that JIEDDO was operating under a broad mandate that does not provide enough clarity and definition for its roles and authority within DOD, according to the report on the bill.

The committee is also concerned about the exponential growth of JIEDDO, and it wants a report on current and future staffing levels broken down by function, service and contractor, the report states.

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