By Emelie Rutherford

The defense authorization bill Senate authorizers unveiled yesterday calls for sticking to the White House’s seven-new-ship request for the Navy, fully funding the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) effort, and giving the Air Force extra money to maintain 76 B-52 bombers.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s (ASASC) version of the fiscal year 2009 defense authorization bill — details of which were released by the committee yesterday–would authorize the overall funding levels requested in February by the White House: a $542.5 billion base defense budget and $70 billion in “bridge funding” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters yesterday floor debate “should take place in a week and a half.”

The SASC’s markup addresses some thorny issues, calling for keeping requested funding in place for the Air Force’s disputed aerial refueling tanker contract to Northrop Grumman [LMT] and leaving the decision of extending the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-22 fighter’s production line beyond 183 aircraft to the next administration, Levin said. (See related story.)

The SASC’s bill calls for fully funding, but not adding to, the administration’s request for constructing seven new Navy ships–including one DDG-1000 destroyer.

SASC member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) acknowledged DDG-1000 funding may become an issue with the House, where there has been talk of stopping the Navy’s DDG-1000 buy at the two already funded.

“I’m hopeful that the House will listen to the Navy, which has clearly said that it wants to proceed with the DDG-1000, and we’ll go in that direction,” Collins told reporters yesterday. “But it remains to be seen.”

Collins said the SASC’s bill also adds an extra $25 million to modernize the existing fleet of DDG-51 destroyers.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) plans to start marking up its version of the defense authorization bill next week. HASC seapower subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) has talked of stopping the DDG-1000 buy at two and buying more DDG-51s while preparing for nuclear-powered ships. Taylor and others in the House also have talked of adding three ships to the Navy’s request.

For the Navy, the Senate authorizers’ bill would: reject the administration’s request to drop the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10 for a limited period, fund both Littoral Combat Ships requested, add $79 million to the administration’s request to accelerate SSN-774 submarine procurement to two boats per year in FY ’11, and add $170 million for advance-procurement of a 10th LPD-17 amphibious ship. It also would reduce requested CG(X) cruiser research and development funding by $120.8 million, drop requested Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle funds by $48.2 million, and withhold obligations for the VH-71 presidential helicopter pending Navy and Defense Department (DoD) actions.

For the Air Force, the SASC’s version of the authorization bill would add $96.9 million to the administration’s request for B-52 flying hours and depot maintenance.

“The DoD failed to include adequate funding in the budget request to meet the requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008 to maintain 76 B-52 bombers in a common configuration,” a bill summary says.

Air Force leaders in March said they were moving to drop previous plans to maintain just 56 B-52s, and instead keep 76 bombers in the fleet to support a rotating nuclear-tasked squadron.

For the air service the legislation also would stick with the administration’s plan to buy no more C-17 cargo airplanes, add $430 million in research and development and $35 million in advance procurement to support a second Joint Strike Fighter F-35 second engine from a General Electric [GE]-Rolls Royce team, and require a long-range aviation plan from the Air Force.

It also would defer one of three requested E-2D advanced Hawkeye aircraft and reduce requested Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile funding by $80 million.

For the Army, the SASC bill would fully fund the administration’s request for the FCS, managed by Boeing [BA] and SAIC [SAI].

The committee “acknowledges that FY 2009 is a critical year for the [FCS] program and [is] emphasizing funding stability provides the Army the best chance of success,” a bill summary says.

The bill also would add $102 million to the Army’s request for the Land Warrior dismounted soldier system–to procure an additional brigade set of equipment for a deploying unit–and add more than $390 million from the Army’s unfunded priorities list for “National Guard homeland defense items,” the summary says.

The legislation would require the defense secretary ensure that the Stryker Mobile Gun System is “subject to testing to confirm the effectiveness of actions taken to mitigate the deficiencies identified in Initial Operational Test and Evaluation and Live Fire Test and Evaluation,” it says.

The authorization bill also calls for:

  • adding to the administration’s request more than $120 million for various nonproliferation and combating-weapons-of-mass-destruction efforts;
  • including $87 million more for unmanned aerial vehicles in National Air Space;
  • adding $50 million for chemical and biological defense procurement programs and research and development projects;
  • including $270 million more for near-term missile defense capabilities; and
  • providing an additional $350 million for the Transformational Communications Satellite.