House committee passes Defense Authorization bill

House Armed Services DOD Authorization bill release

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The Army’s Future Combat Systems program took a major funding hit in the $503.8 billion fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

The bill provided $2.7 billion for FCS research and development next year, $867 million less than the Bush administration requested. The measure also approved the administration’s $99.6 million request for FCS procurement funding.

The bill passed the committee unanimously. The bill now will go to the House for a full vote.

Several other Army IT programs, such as the Joint Network Node and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), also were severely restricted. Lawmakers did increase funding for an advanced satellite communications system and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The FCS cuts came to “reduce concurrency of network and manned ground vehicle development,” said Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Armed Forces Committee’s Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. “FCS manned ground vehicle survivability is, to a significant degree, dependent on the assumed synergy provided by the communications and sensor network. There is a need to test this capability prior to low-rate initial production of the FCS manned ground vehicles.”

Abercrombie said the bill fully funds FCS Spin Out 1 testing and development at $434.3 million. “Spin Out 1 can provide real capability to troops in combat in 2010,” he said. The legislation “protects that part of the FCS program.”

The measure also restricts funding for the Joint Network Node, an Internet voice, video, and data network. The measure reduced the administration’s request of $2.6 billion to $462 million and requires the Secretary of the Army to certify that the Joint Network Node is in compliance with DOD acquisition regulations before the Hill will consider further funding.

Here are some the bill’s other features.
  • Procurement funding for WIN-T was nearly halved from an administration request of $222 million to $120 million.
  • Lawmakers allocated $3.1 billion for DARPA, $17 million more that the administration’s request.
  • The Defense Department’s basic research accounts were fully funded at $1.4 billion.
  • Members allocated $10 million to establish an IT Demonstration Program to rapidly acquire commercial software directed for pressing warfighter needs.
  • The committee authorized an additional $130 million for space situational awareness and space control programs.
  • The committee provided $703.2 million for research and development of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satcom system, a $100 million increase compared with the administration’s request.
  • The Transformational Satellite Communications System was fully funded at $863.6 million.
Peter Buxbaum is a freelancer writer in Bethesda, Md.

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