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Panel Cuts Stealth, 'Star Wars' Funding

June 28, 1989|MELISSA HEALY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee, in the first major action on the Bush Administration's 1990 defense budget, Tuesday cut $300 million from the B-2 stealth bomber program and slashed $1.1 billion from the Administration's proposed $4.9-billion "Star Wars" research program.

The lawmakers also rejected a bid to kill development funds for the single-warhead missile widely known as the Midgetman. But they left until today any final decision on whether to fund research work on a second missile program--the 10-warhead MX missile to be based on rail cars.

Both conservative and liberal critics of the Midgetman are expected to try again to delete all funds for the small mobile missile when the committee bill reaches the House floor. Several House Democrats hope to package that proposal with a cap of 50 MX missiles in the rail-basing mode.

Blanket Approval

As the committee completes final work today on the defense bill, Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.) again will seek blanket approval for the Pentagon's $69-billion procurement budget, that part of the defense spending plan that covers arms purchases. Aspin's move, which won an unprecedented victory last week at the subcommittee level, would head off lawmakers' efforts to restore pet projects cut by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

The committee already has moved to overturn one of Cheney's most controversial cost-cutting decisions, a proposal to cancel development of a tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-22 Osprey for the Marine Corps.

In a successful bid to restore funds needed for that program, the House panel's research and development subcommittee last week took $300 million from development of the B-2 bomber to help fund the V-22 Osprey. Tuesday the full committee concurred with that action.

More Funds Needed

Several Capitol Hill sources said that the $300-million cut adopted Tuesday could hamper efforts to test and conduct further research on the new bomber, which is being built by the Northrop Corp. The Administration this week withdrew another veil of secrecy from the bomber program, revealing that it needs $2 billion to test and develop the plane in 1990.

In a strong signal of congressional discontent with Washington's European allies, the House committee also voted to bring home all 8,000 U.S. troops idled by the December, 1987, treaty banning medium-range nuclear missiles. At the same time, it supported the Pentagon's efforts to build two new short-range nuclear missiles for use in Europe, overturning an earlier subcommittee decision.

If approved by the full House and adopted by the Senate, the bill would provide $33 million for research on a successor to the Lance missile and $55 million to develop a new strike weapon to be launched by aircraft.

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