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CLINTON GETS MOST OF WHAT HE ASKED FOR AS HOUSE OKS BUDGET

SHARE CLINTON GETS MOST OF WHAT HE ASKED FOR AS HOUSE OKS BUDGET

Lawmakers have added money to Air Force bomber programs, cut funds for peacekeeping, increased the military pay raise and urged President Clinton to end the arms embargo over Bosnia. But in other respects, the $263.8 billion defense spending plan for 1995 closely reflects White House priorities.

With a 280-137 House vote Wednesday evening, only final Senate action - which could come later this week - remains before the defense authorization bill goes to the White House for Clinton's signature.The measure slightly increases Clinton's defense budget request for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 and represents an increase of $2.8 billion over this year's defense budget. Adjusted for inflation, that translates into a defense spending cut of just under 1 percent.

In all, 18 percent of the total federal budget would go into defense under this legislation.

For some liberal Democrats, including Rep. Ronald Dellums, D-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the bill cuts too little from defense given the demise of the Soviet Union and is too slow to respond to emerging defense challenges.

"More could be done to reorient ourselves to this new reality more quickly," Dellums said. "For example, more emphasis on preparation for peace operations, broader conversion efforts."

Republicans and conservative Democrats repeated their warnings that the budget further erodes military readiness. It is the 10th consecutive defense plan since the peak of the Reagan defense buildup in 1985 that, when adjusted for inflation, provides less for defense than the previous year.

"We may not have a hollow force today, but the Clinton defense plan is heading us inextricably down this slippery slope that many of us remember from the 1970s," said Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., the ranking Republican on the armed services panel.

Those differing assessments mask a political deadlock on Capitol Hill: Liberal Democrats are unwilling to sacrifice domestic programs to the Pentagon, while Republicans and moderate Democrats are unwilling to raise taxes or increase the deficit for the sake of the defense budget.

Included in the defense bill for fiscal 1995 is authorization for another aircraft carrier, three guided-missile destroyers and six C-17 airlifters. It authorizes development funds for a new attack submarine, the F-22 fighter, a Marine Corps V-22 tilt-rotor troop carrier, and a new reconnaissance helicopter for the Army.

In the only significant cut from Clinton's weapons procurement request, the House-passed bill reduces funding for the troubled Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile, or TSSAM, saving $298 million. Clinton had sought funding to buy 48 of the missiles. The House-passed measure would buy 15 TSSAMs for research and testing purposes.

The bill stops short of ordering Clinton to unilaterally defy the international arms embargo over Bosnia but encourages him to do so. But in another foreign policy area, it eliminates Clinton's request for $300 million in Pentagon funds for U.N. peacekeeping operations.

While Clinton asked for a 1.6 percent military pay raise, the bill passed by the House provides for 2.6 percent. That move will cost taxpayers an additional $465 million and will add $168 to the annual pay of a typical Army sergeant, compared to the Clinton raise, and $664 to a typical colonel's annual pay.

In the most significant departure from the Clinton proposal, the bill rejects the administration's bomber force strategy. The bill includes $136 million to bar retirement of any B-52H, B-1B or F-111 aircraft, to modify air-launched cruise missiles for conventional weapons and to accelerate development of precision munitions.

The bill targets $3.5 billion for defense conversion, an increase of almost $1 billion over this year, with some of that money aimed at helping defense contractors find civilian lines of business.