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House Armed Services agrees to boost submarine funds

The House Armed Services Committee agreed today to add $422 million to the Navy's Virginia-class submarine program but resisted Republican efforts to fully fund the Army's Future Combat Systems.

Comment on this article in The Forum.During the first hours of what is expected to be a long markup of the FY09 defense authorization bill, the panel easily approved the submarine funding, which essentially would serve as a down payment for a second submarine in FY11. The funding comes after the Seapower Subcommittee endorsed an amendment last week from Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., that added $300 million to FY09 submarine accounts for a second submarine in FY10.

Courtney, whose district includes submarine builder Electric Boat, joined forces today with House Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter, who had initially planned to trim funding from an LPD-17 amphibious warfare ship the Seapower panel added to the bill to pay for the additional submarine. But before today's markup, Hunter redirected the offset to the National Defense Sealift Fund, which would pay for two additional T-AKE auxiliary dry cargo dock carriers that the Seapower panel added to the bill last week. Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he believes the Navy still will be able to buy the two additional T-AKE vessels.

Democrats defeated Republican efforts, 33 to 23, to restore $200 million cut from the Army's Future Combat Systems program by the Air and Land Forces panel last week. The subcommittee trimmed the $3.6 billion FCS request to pay for Army National Guard and Reserve equipment, which Democrats deem a more pressing need. Led by Air and Land Forces Subcommittee ranking member Jim Saxton, R-N.J., Republicans warned that the FCS cut could hamper the program at a critical time for it.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., succeeded in attaching compromise language requiring the Navy to study the possibility of a third multiyear procurement deal for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to begin in FY10. Akin initially introduced an amendment authorizing the multiyear purchase, but withdrew it after facing stiff opposition from Taylor, who said he feared the contract would cost $8 billion and jeopardize other parts of future Navy budgets. Under the compromise, the Navy would be allowed to use $100 million in its FY09 Super Hornet budgets for "cost reduction initiatives" that would be critically important for congressional authorization of a multiyear procurement next year. Boeing Co., the aircraft's maker, has said another multiyear deal would help the Navy bridge an anticipated gap in the service's arsenal of strike fighters.

Challenges to the Air Force's controversial decision to award a lucrative contract for aerial refueling fighters to Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European consortium behind Airbus, will not occur until later today.

House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton said he opposes efforts to overturn the contract while GAO reviews a protest filed by Boeing, the losing bidder. But Skelton did include language in his chairman's mark requiring the Air Force to conduct a review if the World Trade Organization rules in a pending case that either Boeing or EADS have received illegal government subsidies. The review would examine the impact any subsidies had on the award.

Boeing has argued that subsidies EADS receives from European governments gave the firm an unfair advantage. Skelton's mark, which includes dozens of policy provisions, also would require the Defense Department to provide more details on war funding requests, including delineating the money intended for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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