Senate Panel To Boost Army FCS Funding




 
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Senate Panel To Boost Army FCS Funding
 
May 23rd, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Senate Panel To Boost Army FCS Funding


Senate Panel To Boost Army FCS Funding
National Journal's CongressDailyAM
May 23, 2007
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to approve this week an FY08 defense authorization measure that would fatten the Army's top modernization program instead of cutting it as the recently passed House bill does, according to several knowledgeable congressional and defense sources.
The Senate panel, which has long supported the massive program, is expected to add between $50 million and $100 million to the Bush administration's $3.7 billion request for the Future Combat Systems, the technological core of the Army's transformation efforts.
Last week, the House approved an authorization bill that slices $867 million from the program, a deep cut that generated strong Republican opposition. The House typically votes to trim the program every year, but the latest cut is by far the largest.
Meanwhile, the Senate committee does not plan to add any money to buy more C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes, according to well-placed Senate sources.
This would create another deep division with the House when conference talks on a final authorization bill begin later this year.
Last week, House lawmakers authorized $2.4 billion to buy 10 additional C-17s next year, delaying an imminent closure of the Boeing Co. aircraft production line. Boeing and its subcontractors manufacture parts of the C-17 plane in 42 states, making it one of the most popular defense procurement programs in Congress.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a member of the Armed Services Committee, argued Tuesday that more C-17s are needed in the military, particularly in light of Army plans to rely on airlift to dispatch its future fleet of vehicles to global troublespots. Major portions of the C-17 are built and assembled in St. Louis.
"We're a long way from the sausage being made," McCaskill said in an interview, adding that subcommittee markups are only the "first step" in the authorization process.
Several Senate Armed Services subcommittees marked up their portions of the annual authorization bill Tuesday behind closed doors, with the goal of completing a markup by the full committee by the end of the week.
Army officials have launched a coordinated effort on Capitol Hill to reverse the Future Combat System cuts in the House version of the bill, arguing that depleting FCS of nearly one-quarter of its FY08 funding would devastate the program. Army Chief of Staff George Casey has warned House Armed Services Chairman Skelton that the cut would force soldiers to fight wars with Cold War-era equipment well beyond 2040.
Should the Senate committee add money to FCS, it would mark a major victory for the Army and give the Senate a higher dollar figure from which to begin conference negotiations with the House. It also undoubtedly would send a strong message to House lawmakers who are skeptical of the program that the feeling might not be widely shared.
The $160 billion Army program, which is still largely in development and will not be in the field for several years, has long been suspect in the House, where many lawmakers have raised concerns over its ever-escalating price tag at a time when the Army needs billions of dollars each year just to repair and replace equipment lost or damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, has said repeatedly that he stripped money from the Future Combat Systems to cover the Army's more pressing needs.
Defense sources said the Army could handle between $300 million and $400 million in cuts to the program without causing serious delays. Considered the most expensive and ambitious technological undertaking in the Army's history, FCS is a vast system of manned and unmanned air and ground vehicles tied together by a complex electronic network.
So far this week, private negotiations among Senate Armed Services Committee members over the authorization bill's major provisions have centered largely on the size of the military's heavily deployed ground forces, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the panel's former chairman, said Tuesday. For some of those talks, Warner has been filling in for Armed Services ranking member John McCain, R-Ariz., a 2008 presidential contender who has been out campaigning.
Warner would not comment on whether the committee will exceed the Pentagon's proposed increases in personnel strength for the Army and Marine Corps, but said the committee has been doing a "diligent job" reviewing the matter.
By Megan Scully
 


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