Aspin Gives Boost to House B-2 Foes, Asks Halt in Production
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee today announced he will oppose future production of the B-2 bomber, giving a major boost to House efforts to kill the aircraft President Bush has sought.
“Production of the B-2 should be stopped and the production facility should be mothballed. Research and development should be continued and completed,” Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) said in a speech on the House floor.
Aspin cited the increasing fiscal constraints on the defense budget as the basis for his decision. The chairman noted that five strategic programs--the B-2 bomber, the C-17 transport plane, the Advanced Tactical Fighter, the A-12 attack plane and the light helicopter--will cost more than $300 billion.
Specifically, the cost of a single B-2 bomber is estimated at nearly $860 million, a price tag that has caused sticker shock among members of Congress.
“The answer to the question of whether the B-2 will be as stealthy and otherwise work as advertised is: The early results are good, but we just don’t know yet,” Aspin said.
In the final analysis, the Armed Services Committee chairman said the program turned up no “unique and compelling mission for the B-2.”
In proposing a $307-billion defense budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, Bush called for $5.5 billion for five of the radar-evading aircraft and related items.
Faced with a diminishing Soviet threat and a burgeoning federal deficit, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in April revised the Administration’s request to two planes in fiscal 1991.
Cheney also cut the total number of planes to built from 132 to 75 at a total cost of $63 billion.
Aspin’s announcement is certain to help legislation sponsored by Reps. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Berkeley), John G. Rowland (R-Conn.) and John R. Kasich (R-Ohio) to stop production of the planes at the 15 currently in development.
In his speech, Aspin said he would incorporate the Dellums-Kasich-Rowland amendment in his proposal to the committee.
Last year, the legislation failed in the House by a vote of 279 to 144, largely because Aspin opposed the bill and joined forces with Rep. Mike Synar (D-Okla.) on a compromise bill that scaled back the program.
The Aspin-Synar amendment was approved 257 to 160.
Although proponents of the House measure are optimistic they can kill the program, support for the bat-winged aircraft in the Senate remains strong.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, in approving a $289-billion defense bill earlier this month, approved the Administration’s request for two planes in fiscal 1991 and the panel’s chairman, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) remains a strong supporter of the aircraft.
Aspin’s decision comes as his panel is scheduled to begin crafting their version of the defense bill for fiscal 1991. The committee will draw up a budget to a total of $283 billion, $24 billion less than Bush proposed.