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Panel Backs Clinton’s Defense Spending but Shows Concerns

From Associated Press

The defense spending plan approved by the House Armed Services Committee hews to President Clinton’s budget while expressing concern that the military not become a “hollow force” unable to handle more than one regional war.

The $263.3-billion spending plan for fiscal 1995, approved Thursday and released Friday, is slightly below Clinton’s request and adjusts some Administration priorities. It also finances a new aircraft carrier and stops short of killing the troubled C-17 cargo plane.

With the budget now headed for the House floor, outlines of military priorities for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 are emerging, although the Senate Armed Services Committee is still deliberating. At a time of declining defense spending, the military will depend increasingly on mobility, and so the big-dollar items in the budget include air transport, landing ships and the “power projecting” carrier.

A decade of defense spending reductions means fewer people will be asked to do more. The committee accepted an Administration proposal to double to 180 days the time that could be served by reserves in a presidential call-up.

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Increasingly, the government is confronting the need to buy weapons it may not need in order to preserve the factories that build them. For that reason, the committee added $78 million for six Apache attack helicopters to avoid a seven-month production gap at a McDonnell Douglas Corp. plant.

A key reason for including $3.7 billion toward the $4.5-billion carrier in the 1995 budget was to protect jobs at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. in Virginia and prevent specialized subcontractors from going out of business.

In another sign of the times, the committee said it opposed allowing defense contractors to write off merger costs until it studies the issue in more detail.

While the bill closely follows Administration priorities, it is critical of some White House initiatives and recommends greater emphasis in such areas as the comfort of troops and preventing sexual harassment.

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The panel approved a Republican amendment opposing use of Pentagon money to finance United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Where Clinton requested a 1.6% military pay raise, the committee recommended 2.6%. The estimated $500-million cost was offset by reductions in overhead elsewhere in the budget, the committee said. It included $40.8 million for a “comprehensive quality of life construction program” for troops stationed in South Korea.

The committee also moved up the effective date of cost-of-living increases for military pensioners at a cost of $376 million.


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