The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved yesterday a defense spending plan that would freeze the Pentagon’s budget and cut programs including the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) and missile-defense interceptors.

The SAC’s defense appropriations bill would cut $26 billion from the Pentagon’s $539 billion base budget request for fiscal year 2012, granting it the same funding as in FY ’11. Because the defense appropriations bill is not expected to pass before FY ’12 starts Oct. 1, the House advanced a continuing resolution (CR) yesterday that would run until Nov. 18 and trim funding for the Pentagon and most federal agencies by 1.4 percent below FY ’11 levels.

The spending reductions in both the SAC bill and CR are intended to heed spending caps set in the new deficit-control law approved in August.

In the Senate, SAC Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said yesterday during his committee’s markup session any cuts to the Pentagon’s budget below those his panel approved “could be detrimental to our military forces.”

His panel’s legislation proposes 580 reductions to programs the Pentagon requested in its budget proposal back in February. Those include a cut to the Pentagon’s request for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the termination of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) development effort, both announced Tuesday.

The SAC unveiled additional proposed reductions to the Pentagon’s request yesterday, including cuts to the Army’s planned GCV, “due to schedule delays and changes to the acquisition strategy,” and Theater High Altitude Area Defense interceptors, which the SAC said cannot be procured in FY ’12. The Senate panel also wants to cut the Pentagon’s request for Joint Tactical Radio Systems–the Ground Mobile Radio, Manpack Radio, and Airborne/Maritime Fixed Radio–“due to delayed production decisions,” while eliminating increases for “premature” Manpack capability enhancements, according to a committee summary.

SAC member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) expressed concern yesterday about the committee’s proposed reduction to the Navy’s Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) program, which the House did not cut. She asked Inouye to support the ship effort when House and Senate negotiators hash out a final FY ’12 defense appropriations bill. The MLPs are built at General Dynamics’ [GD] NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. When the SAC Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) approved its version of the bill on Tuesday, Inouye said his panel wanted to cut one MLP because Congress funded the ship in the FY ’11 appropriations bill.

The bill the SAC approved yesterday endorses additional weapon-system cuts unveiled during Tuesday’s SAC-D markup. Those include a $695 million reduction to the Pentagon’s request for Lockheed Martin’s [LMT] F-35 which would delay a ramp up in aircraft production to allow kinks to be worked out in ongoing testing.

The panel also wants to terminate the Army-Marine Corps JLTV development effort and instead invest monies in recapitalizing and competitively upgrading existing Humvees.

Both matters will likely be negotiated with House lawmakers; the House-passed defense appropriations bill would deal a smaller cut to the F-35 program, of $75 million in development funding. And the House would reduce but not eliminate the Pentagon’s request for the JLTV, cutting $50 million from the $244 million request.

Three contractor teams have worked prototypes for the JLTV’s current technology-development phase: the General Tactical Vehicles (GTV) team of General Dynamics and AM General; BAE Systems-Navistar Defense LLC, an affiliate of Navistar International Corp. [NAV]; and Lockheed Martin-BAE.

The SAC-approved bill proposes an array of additions to the Pentagon’s budget request, including:

– $500 million for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account,

– six more Army Black Hawk helicopters,

– $120 million for “efficient production” of Air Force C-130Js,

– $89 million for Army tactical unmanned aerial vehicles to replace aircraft lost in combat,

– $250 million for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) survivability upgrades,

– $25 million for Special Operations Command emerging equipment requirements for Afghanistan, and

– 49 additional Abrams tank upgrades.

The SAC also calls for adding $150 million to the Defense Production Act “to build production capacity for critical defense-related initiatives,” and $30 million for the Industrial Base Innovation Fund authorized by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the summary says.

The SAC’s proposed FY ’12 base defense budget is $513 billion, or $26 billion below the $539 billion Pentagon request. When military-construction funding is factored in, the SAC measure is worth $526 billion, or $27 billion less than the Pentagon’s $553 billion request for defense and military construction. The SAC bill calls for giving the Pentagon its full $117.8 billion war-funding request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The Budget Control Act of 2011 that President Barack Obama signed on Aug. 2 cuts defense-related spending by $250 billion over the next decade, according to the White House. Those reductions are separate from those being considered by the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. If that committee and Congress can’t agree on up to $1.5 trillion in savings this year, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion will kick in starting in 2013, which half of them coming largely from the Pentagon.

The House passed a defense appropriations bill in July that the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) said would trim the Pentagon’s FY ’12 proposal by $9 billion.

Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee yesterday approved the CR that runs fro Oct. 1 until Nov. 18. The House is slated to debate it next week. The CR contains a provision that appropriate extra war funding, at the level included in FY ’12 defense appropriations bill the House passed in July.

The HAC described this OCO funding in a press release, describing it as a necessary provision that is an “extension of the availability of defense survival equipment such as body armor and MRAPs for coalition efforts abroad.”