The San Diego Union-Tribune

Sept. 8, 2001

Missile defense divides parties 

Dispute adds doubt about spending bill


WASHINGTON -- Democrats used their slight advantage on the Senate
Armed Services Committee yesterday to approve a $343.5 billion defense
spending bill designed to keep the administration from scrapping the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The bill also would empower Bush to begin a new round of base closings and
realignments in 2003, a provision that is unpopular with many lawmakers and
defense workers.

The Democrats' demand that Congress vote specifically for any national
missile defense test that would violate the 1972 ABM treaty provoked a
breach in the committee's long tradition of bipartisanship as the Republicans
voted against the bill. The measure was approved 13-12 on a party-line vote.

Republicans responded with threats of a heated fight on the floor and a
presidential veto. They also objected to a $1.3 billion cut in the $8.3 billion
President Bush requested for missile defense, which was $3 billion more than
current funding.

The sharp partisan dispute over missile defense adds further uncertainty to a
bill clouded by warnings that the $18.4 billion increase it allows would require the use of Social Security funds. Both parties have vowed not to touch the trust fund.

The missile dispute also masks the otherwise broad bipartisan support for a
bill that would provide the largest boost in defense spending and one of the
biggest military pay raises since the early 1980s.

The bill would allow a 5 percent pay raise for all service members, plus up to
10 percent more for many midcareer enlisted personnel and junior officers.

It would also authorize major boosts in housing allowances and other benefits, and increase spending on badly rundown family housing, barracks and other military facilities and on new weapons and equipment to replace aging gear.

The Senate panel's vote for additional base closings puts it at odds with the
House Armed Services Committee, which rejected the administration's
request for that authority in its bill, which is awaiting floor action.

After four painful rounds that closed 97 major installations nationwide, the
Pentagon says the services have about 23 percent too many bases and could
save $6 billion a year if they could shed the excess.

Although the bill provides the total level of funding the administration
requested, the Senate panel shifted more than $3 billion from Pentagon
requests to programs the lawmakers considered more important. Some of the reallocations would help service members, but most of it would buy weapons and equipment that put funds into lawmakers' states.

In addition to the $1.3 billion cut from missile defense, the panel ordered the
Pentagon to save $1.6 billion through efficiency measures, including using
commercial practices in contracting for services.

The bill also cut $593.3 million from the Marine Corps' troubled Osprey
program, reducing the planned production from 12 tilt-rotor aircraft to nine.