House Panel Proposes Adding $874 Million for Weapons

The House panel that controls military expenditures proposed a net increase of $874 million for weapons over the Pentagon’s budget plans for the year starting Oct. 1.

The largest amounts that the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee added in producing a $102.4 billion procurement request were $562.4 million to buy 11 additional Boeing Co. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets and $447 million to buy seven more Lockheed Martin Corp. C-130J transport planes, according to the defense panel’s report obtained today.

The subcommittee also added $300 million for procurement of Pac-3 Patriot missile interceptors from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Co. and $199 million to buy 10 more UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by United Technologies Corp. than the Army requested. The panel didn’t specify major cuts it proposed except a $33.7 million reduction for Boeing’s P-8A surveillance aircraft.

The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to act May 17 on the recommendations of its defense panel, which added the money for weapons as part of a $3.1 billion total increase from about $513 billion that the Pentagon proposed for its spending that comes under the defense subcommittee’s jurisdiction.

The full House this week will consider parallel legislation that authorizes defense spending. That bill calls for $4 billion more than the Pentagon’s request of $550 billion, which includes military construction and the Energy Department’s defense program.

Veto Threatened

The White House budget office today issued a veto threat over the defense authorization measure. If its “cumulative effects” would impede the administration’s ability to execute its new defense strategy and “to properly direct scarce resources,” President Barack Obama’s advisers would recommend a veto, according to a statement by the Office of Management and Budget.

The appropriations subcommittee in its proposal also added $576.3 million to the Pentagon’s $69.4 billion research request.

The panel boosted funding for General Dynamics Corp.’s Abrams battle tanks by $181 million, enough to help convert an additional 33 tanks to the latest M1A2 model. The Army wants to suspend that work at a Lima, Ohio-based tank plant from 2013 to 2015.

Drones, Israel Defense

General Atomics also would get an increase for its MQ-9 Reaper drone. The lawmakers proposed an increase of $155 million and 12 drones above the Pentagon’s request.

BAE Systems Plc would see an increase of $140 million from the Pentagon’s request for its Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

The request for $2.6 billion in research for the F-35 fighter jet from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest program, was nicked by $16.8 million.

The panel recommended adding $848.9 million for Israel’s missile defense, including $680 million for the Iron Dome system and $111.4 million for a system called David’s Sling.

Iron Dome, built by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., went into operation a year ago and has proved effective at intercepting short-range rockets, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. The $680 million also was backed last week by the House panel that authorizes defense spending.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon on May 17, and the session is intended to include an agreement on more U.S. funding for Iron Dome, according to an Israeli ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment in advance.

Rescinded Funds

The appropriations panel also detailed $1 billion in procurement and research funds approved for this fiscal year that it seeks to rescind. The largest amounts are $115 million for the Air Force’s Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance program and $105 million for the Pentagon’s Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.

The panel proposed cutting $66 million from a $99.6 million development request for Northrop Grumman Corp.’s MQ-8 Firescout drone that was originally intended for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Delays on the combat ship have resulted in the drones being used for other roles and missions, which in turn disrupted the Firescout’s testing and development schedule, the panel said.

The panel urged the Navy to place the Firescout on “probation.” Firescout issues have included a crash and a drone that lost communications with its control station while conducting operations, the panel said.

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