A House armed services panel is taking the first step toward killing the B-2 bomber by eliminating $3.8 billion President Bush sought for the aircraft in the 1991 military budget.
Following the lead of its chairman, Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., the panel on procurement and military nuclear systems adopted a plan Monday to remove the money the Pentagon requested to buy two Stealth aircraft.The research and development subcommittee will meet Tuesday to consider the level of spending for testing of weapons, including the B-2 bomber. The full Armed Services Committee is scheduled to complete work on a $283 billion defense bill later in the day.
To meet the House-approved level for military spending in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, the procurement subcommittee had to slash $11 billion from Bush's request of $73 billion.
Among the major subcommittee cuts were $1.3 billion for a program to move the MX nuclear missile from fixed silos to railroad cars, a $1.2 billion reduction in the classified request for the Navy's A-12 attack plane and costly restrictions on the C-17 transport plane.
The panel requires Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to certify that the first successful flight of the C-17 has occurred. After that certification, the Air Force may seek to reprogram funds to buy two aircraft.
The administration had requested $2.1 billion for the two planes and related items.
The panel eliminated the $1.3 billion Bush sought for the AMRAAM missile but it rejected Cheney's attempts to kill the V-22 Osprey, adding $165 million for advance procurement of the tilt-rotor assault transport that takes off like a helicopter but can fly like a plane.
It was the costly and controversial B-2 bomber, however, that suffered the deepest cut.
Support for the radar-evading aircraft has eroded in Congress where lawmakers have criticized the cost of a single plane - nearly $865 million - in a climate of fiscal constraint and a lessening Soviet threat to the West.
Aspin dealt a serious blow to the program last week when he announced his support for legislation that would limit production of the aircraft, which is manufactured by the Northrop Corp., to the 15 planes currently under development.
The chairman's decision came despite Cheney's revised program that calls for 75 of the aircraft instead of 132 and two of the planes in fiscal 1991 rather than five.