Friday, June 26, 2009

House nears vote on $550.4 billion defense bill

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives was poised to approve on Thursday a $550.4 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 2010 that has drawn a veto threat from President Barack Obama because it contains money for fighter jets he does not want.
The bill also authorizes $130 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the fiscal year that begins October 1.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said it supported the overall bill but the president`s senior advisers would recommend a veto unless some provisions were dropped.
One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the White House veto threat as "a bargaining tool."
The Senate Armed Services Committee was to unveil its defense authorization bill for 2010 later on Thursday, but the legislation was unlikely to be approved by the full Senate until September. House and Senate negotiators must then hammer out a compromise version before final passage.
The OMB said it strongly objected to the House decision to include $369 million in advanced procurement funds to buy 12 more F-22 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp despite a Pentagon decision to halt production at 187.
Some lawmakers are pushing to continue production of the F-22 until a current ban on exports can be lifted to allow Japan to buy a modified version of the premiere U.S. fighter jet. The Lockheed program employs workers in over 40 states.
The administration also objected to House lawmakers adding $603 million to the bill to continue work on an alternate F-35 fighter engine being built by General Electric Co and Rolls-Royce Group Plc.
The OMB said the changes would delay the fielding of the F-35 and have an adverse effect on the Pentagon`s overall strike fighter inventory. It said the risks of a fleet-wide grounding with a single engine, an issue raised by the Marine Corps general who runs the program, were "exaggerated."
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)
Original article

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