By Emelie Rutherford

The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee (SAC-D) included funds yesterday in its marked-up bill for a third DDG-1000 destroyer for the Navy in fiscal year 2009, ensuring the battle over continuing the ship program is divided between the House and Senate.

The $487.7 billion FY ’09 defense appropriations bill the SAC-D approved also calls for adding to the White House’s request: advance-procurement funds to continue the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet production line; $750 million for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance initiatives; and $150 million for near-term missile defense initiatives. It supports the request for the Army’s Future Combat System program, unmanned aerial vehicles, and Navy’s F-18 Hornet aircraft. The measure calls for reducing requested funding for longer-term missile defense efforts and for programs including the Army’s Stryker Mobile Gun System (zeroing funding), the multi-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (dropping the purchase number from 16 to 14) and the Navy’s UH-1Y helicopters (deferring two).

“In each case the funds that are reduced are for programs which are behind schedule or are seeking funding which cannot be justified,” SAC-D Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said during yesterday’s markup.

The bill adds more than $1 billion to the White House’s request for Navy shipbuilding, acting SAC-D Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said.

“The Navy has consistently supported the requirement for a 313-ship Navy, but they have not requested funding for the 10 to 12 ships per year needed to put them on a path to achieve that requirement,” Cochran said. ” Mr. Chairman, I congratulate you for adding $1 billion to the Navy shipbuilding account and look forward to continuing to work with you in helping to…fund the shipbuilding requirements of the Navy and the Marine Corps.”

The SAC-D mark funds the purchase of one DDG-1000 destroyer in FY ’09, $2.55 billion in funding the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee (HAC-D) did not include in the bill it marked up July 30.

The defense authorization bill the Senate is currently debating includes the $2.55 billion for the DDG-1000. The House-passed defense authorization bill, though, does not include the funding and instead gives the Navy the option of using $400 million to either restart DDG-51 production or use for DDG-1000 advance procurement.

The Navy told lawmakers in July it wanted to truncate the DDG-1000 destroyer line at the two ships on contract and instead restart production of the older and cheaper DDG-51 destroyers. Yet in August the service reversed course slightly and said it once again wants a third DDG-1000 in FY ’09, though it hopes to stop at that ship and will seek support for restarting the DDG-51 line in FY ’10.

The SAC-D yesterday also added $397 million to the White House’s request in advance-procurement funds for one DDG-51 destroyer. Its mark also adds to the Bush administration’s request $273 million in advance-procurement monies for buying a LPD-17 amphibious ship, which when ultimately purchased would be the Navy’s 10th.

The HAC-D’s marked-up bill and the House-passed defense authorization bill, by contrast, both include funding for outright buying that 10th LPD-17 next year. Neither of those measures fund the third DDG-1000 next year. The defense authorization bill the Senate is debating includes $170 million in advance-procurement monies for the 10th LPD-17.

It is not clear if Congress will pass the FY ’09 defense appropriations bill before the fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) early this week canceled a markup, for its version of the defense bill, that had been scheduled for Tuesday. HAC-D Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.) said yesterday he does not know if the HAC markup can be held, and all the subsequent steps be taken, in time for lawmakers to agree upon a bill to send to the White House by Oct. 1.

“It’s going to be difficult to have a full committee mark up next week,” he said.

He said chances are greater than 50 percent that defense spending will be covered by a continuing resolution (CR) initially in FY ’09, considering current plans call for Congress to adjourn for the year on Sept. 26.

“We couldn’t get it done by the 26th,” Murtha told reporters, though he said lawmakers may be able to craft a final bill if they work beyond that date.

Issues stalling the HAC markup include an energy amendment, he said. He also pointed to talks about how to deal with matters in the bill that clash with the Senate, including shipbuilding plans.

For the forthcoming conference committee of House-Senate lawmakers, “shipbuilding is probably the biggest” sticking point to hash out, Murtha said. Conferees won’t officially meet until after each chamber passes its version of the bill.

Some sources speculate the shipbuilding debate will boil down to funding either a DDG-1000 or the 10th LPD-17 in FY ’09. Murtha yesterday reiterated his support for the 10th LPD-17, saying the Marine Corps needs it.