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House Cuts Defense Plan by $10.5 Billion : Military: Bush strongly opposes the measure which also seeks a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The House gave formal approval Friday to a $270.5-billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 1993 that would cut President Bush’s proposed military budget by $10.5 billion and order deeper cuts in U.S. troop strength overseas--measures that Bush vigorously opposes.

The bill, approved on a vote of 198 to 168, now goes to the Senate, which is expected to eliminate many of the House-passed changes. Besides the faster troop withdrawals, the House measure also would impose a one-year moratorium on U.S. testing of nuclear weapons.

The action came after House members turned down two eleventh-hour attempts to reduce spending further for the Bush-backed Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly called “Star Wars,” in which the House Armed Services Committee had made only modest cuts.

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The House also rejected a bid by some liberals to block production of four more B-2 Stealth bombers, manufactured in California by the Northrop Corp. Critics had contended that the extra B-2s are unneeded but proponents argued that they are necessary to keep production lines running.

For all the added cuts the House made, the $10.5-billion reduction from the $281-billion Pentagon budget that Bush submitted in January is not likely to survive once the Senate writes its own legislation and a House-Senate conference committee crafts a compromise.

The Senate is expected to approve Bush’s budget virtually intact. Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who would head the House conferees, favors only $7 billion in cuts--the amount that his panel had recommended before the House voted to boost that figure.

Analysts said that many of the House members who voted for the changes in the bill did so on the assumption that they would be dropped or watered down in negotiations with the Senate. Most analysts believe that the final version will cut only about $3.5 billion from Bush’s budget.

Even so, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney already has begun warning that the President may veto the legislation unless many House-passed changes are diluted or rolled back.

Besides the extra cuts in overall spending levels, Cheney has specifically objected to the cutbacks in the SDI program, the one-year moratorium on nuclear-weapons testing and reductions in production of some weapons systems.

Despite all the amendments, the measure passed by the House and the expected Senate version are likely to make only modest changes in the current defense budget, leaving major decisions on the shape of the post-Cold War military posture until next year and fiscal 1995.

Just the same, experts said that the cutbacks for fiscal 1993, which begins Oct. 1, are sufficient to lay the groundwork for some $90 billion in cuts during the next five years that will constitute the biggest reduction in the defense establishment in more than a generation.

The measure passed Friday contains these major elements:

- Cuts funding for the “Star Wars” program by $1.1 billion from the Administration’s request, eliminating money for the so-called “Brilliant Pebbles” research program aimed at developing missile interceptors based in space. The legislation provides that only one ground-based system would be built.

- Requires the Administration to order a 40% reduction in the number of U.S. troops now stationed abroad and demands that Bush negotiate with U.S. allies to persuade them to pay more of the cost of maintaining those units that remain on their soil.

- Authorizes allocation of $1 billion in spending for “defense conversion” efforts, designed to help retiring military personnel and defense workers, defense contractors and communities that have been hard hit by defense cutbacks.

- Authorizes the manufacture of four more B-2 Stealth bombers, in addition to the 16 already in production, despite contentions by critics that they no longer are necessary. The bill, however, requires Congress to vote again on the issue before the extra orders can be placed.

- Cuts 30% from Bush’s request for increased production of the controversial C-17 cargo jet, built by McDonnell Douglas Corp. of St. Louis, following reports of serious manufacturing problems there. The measure now would authorize only $1.9 billion.

- Gives the Pentagon substantially more control over the reserves and National Guard but limits the overall reduction in total force levels to only 66,947 troops--substantially below the 115,997 in cuts that Bush had requested.

- Provides $250 million to help the former Soviet republics destroy the nuclear weapons now in their arsenals.


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