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KEEP LID ON B-2 BOMBER SPENDING

Pentagon officials in this case, those from the Air Force - are back on Capitol Hill seeking a multibillion dollar budget addition for an already overpriced and possibly unneeded weapon system.

The Air Force is trying to convince Congress to add another five B-2 Stealth bombers to its acquisition list.Just a few months ago, the Air Force said 15 B-2s - the number Congress has authorized - would cost taxpayers $41.8 billion. That works out to just under $2.8 billion per aircraft.

Now, the Air Force is telling Congress, it can buy another five B-2s for less than the cost of one in the original budget request - $2.6 billion - bringing the total funding request to $44.4 billion.

It would appear to be a good deal except for one thing. A recently completed Congressional Budget Office calculation indicates the Pentagon may be up to its old trick of inflating cost projections.

The budget office report contends the 20-plane deal should cost only $40.2 billion.

The Air Force originally wanted funding for 132 B-2s, arguing the radar evading aircraft specifically designed for deep penetration into the former Soviet Union are desperately needed to replace an aging and outdated armada of B-52 bombers.

The bomber's questionable value was not enhanced earlier this year during tests in which the aircraft proved less capable of evading radar than had been expected.

Add to that the question of whether the evolving independent states that formerly comprised the Soviet Union will be capable of developing and maintaining sophisticated radar tracking equipment, and the B-2's need and value is further diminished.

With changing world conditions - specifically the demise of the Soviet Union - Congress has wisely questioned the need for the highly sophisticated aircraft and has steadily pared the Air Force wish list.

Obviously, in a world still wracked with continuing conflict, there is a need for the United States to maintain a properly trained and equipped military.

But in light of other pressing economic and social needs, Congress should act swiftly and decisively to eliminate unneeded military spending, especially that associated with questionable new weapon systems.