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House Defense Leader Says He’ll Try to Force Cheney to Cut Cost of B-2 Program

From Associated Press

A congressional defense leader split with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney today and announced that he will try to force Cheney to lower the $70-billion cost of the radar-evading B-2 stealth bomber program.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.), ending his unconditional support of Cheney’s weapons budget, announced that he plans to offer an amendment next week that would require Cheney to trim the cost of the B-2.

“I don’t want to kill it,” Aspin told reporters. “I just want to slow it down and take another look at the figures.

“The argument is (over) how many B-2s do you need,” Aspin said. “I think there is a consensus (in Congress) that you need a penetrating bomber.”

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The black bomber, built with non-metallic material and a sleek shape to evade Soviet radar in a nuclear war, made its first test flight Monday.

But Aspin told Cheney at a hearing last week that there is “no chance, no chance” that Congress will approve the up to $8 billion a year Cheney expects to request for the plane in the next few years.

2 Planes Instead of 3

Aspin said his amendment to the annual defense authorization bill in the full House next week would allow the government to build two of the planes next year instead of the three Cheney wants and to buy parts to build two more the next year rather than five.

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He said the amendment would authorize $4.2 billion of Cheney’s $4.7-billion B-2 request for next year but would prohibit any production money’s being spent until Cheney submits and Congress approves a revised B-2 program to cut the $70-billion cost.

Aspin said that would mean building fewer than the 132 B-2 bombers the Air Force plans but he said he had no suggestions on how big a cut should be made or how it should be achieved.


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