HOUSE-SENATE conferees completed work on the fiscal year (FY) 1995 defense authorization bill August 10, approving $263.8 billion in budget authority--a total virtually identical to the Clinton administration's original request and a reduction of about 1 percent from the FY94 level (after taking inflation into account).
While the conferees decided to omit several items on which they failed to reconcile differences, the final version maintains the status quo for most strategic weapons programs. The legislation, which goes to both houses for a final vote, also puts the administration on notice that any substantive change to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty will require Senate approval.
One important question left unanswered in the FY95 defense bill is the future of the B-2 bomber production line. Last year Congress capped production at 20 aircraft and total acquisition costs at $44.4 billion. While the administration's FY95 B-2 request was within the cap, the Senate bill contained a controversial measure providing an additional $150 million to accelerate spare parts purchases and keep B-2 contractors operating. The House version contained no such provision.
In an effort to compromise, the conferees cut $25 million and directed the secretary of defense to study whether a " bomber capability shortage" will occur in the near-, mid- or long-term. When the reports are completed, and only if additional funding is deemed necessary, $125 million from the newly established "Enhanced Bomber Capability Fund" will be authorized for specific allocations.
The authorization bill mandates that Defense Secretary William Perry first complete a requirements study by April 1995 to determine how the present bomber force meets bomber capability needs projected through 1988, 2006 and 2014. If the report reveals a lack of bomber force capability or that the cost to upgrade and arm the current bombers is unacceptable, the bill calls for a second study to examine alternative strategies to increase capabilities and identify the "core requirements" of the existing industrial base needed for future action.
After these studies are completed, the Defense Department may spend up to $100 million of the authorized $125 million to fund the studies and maintain bomber industrial base core capabilities. If, as a result of the studies, the secretary of defense "determines that a new-generation bomber is needed to meet national security requirements for bombers," the Pentagon may spend the remaining $25 million to begin research on such a program. The conferees agreed that no bomber capability funds may be obligated for advance procurement of new B-2s, dispelling House concerns about the original Senate proposal.
ABM Treaty Compliance Stressed
In a policy statement, the conferees gave notice to the Clinton administration that any new agreements with Russia distinguishing ABM systems from theater missile defense (TMD) systems that "substantively modify" the ABM Treaty would be subject to Senate approval as a treaty amendment. The authorization bill also restricts the use of any funds for activities inconsistent with the traditional interpretation of the ABM Treaty.
The new bill authorizes $2.8 billion for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), $450 million less than the Clinton administration …