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Crusader Project Not Dead Yet

June 20, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON -- Maneuvering to save jobs and technologies threatened by a planned cancellation of the Crusader howitzer, the Senate struck a compromise Wednesday that allows the Army to wrap up a study of its artillery needs before the Pentagon kills the $11-billion project.

The White House dropped a threat to veto any bill that overrode the Pentagon's bid to scrap the weapon without further delay so long as it could shift funds to other programs once the Crusader is canceled.

Supporters of the Crusader, being developed by United Defense Industries Inc., hope that while the Army is finishing its study, probably by September, there will be time to work out a plan to save many of its technologies and jobs, and apply them to the lighter, more mobile systems the Pentagon wants.

Doug Coffey, a United Defense spokesman, praised the Senate action as finally giving the big, 155-millimeter gun "the kind of detailed analysis it deserves."

"It's a recognition that the decision to cancel was hasty," he said. The Senate approved the Crusader compromise as it worked through a $393-billion defense authorization bill for next fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The Crusader has been in development since 1994 at a cost so far of $2 billion.

It was to be ready for the field by 2008, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last month abruptly announced the 40-ton cannon was too big.

That set the stage for a potential showdown over the administration's ability to kill a weapon that had strong support among defense hawks and lawmakers from Oklahoma and Minnesota, where many of the jobs related to it were based.

But with this vote, as well as with a defense budget bill moving through the House Appropriations Committee, both sides may duck the fight.

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