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Senators Join Congressmen in Supporting Battlefield Network

The U.S. senators from Massachusetts are joining dozens of their colleagues in the House to support a battlefield communications network being developed by General Dynamics Corp.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. William "Mo" Cowen, both Democrats, are pressing the Defense Department to avoid transferring funding from the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, and the Joint Tactical Radio System's Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit, or HMS, programs to pay for more urgent needs, according to letters released May 22.

"We understand that sequestration has created a difficult budget environment and that tough choices must be made," they wrote in a May 20 letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, referring to the automatic budget cuts that took effect in March. "However, the Army stated that this program is its 'highest priority,' therefore the Army should take all possible steps to protect the WIN-T and the HMS radios from further reductions."

The senators sent a similar letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. A group of 71 members of the House of Representatives, mostly Democrats, last week wrote similar correspondence.

Of the congressmen who signed the letter, 44 were Democrats, according to a Military​.com analysis. The largest groups of signatures came from Arizona, where the General Dynamics C4 Systems unit is based, and Massachusetts, where program work is performed.

The letter-writing campaign comes a month after the Falls Church, Va.-based defense giant and its subcontractors deployed hundreds of lobbyists on Capitol Hill to argue against the Army’s proposal to shift funding from WIN-T and other acquisition programs in part to pay for the war in Afghanistan.

The Army wants to transfer $128 million from the WIN-T program as part of a larger Pentagon request to shift $9.6 billion dollars in funding for the rest of the year in a move known as reprogramming. Service officials have said they remain committed to the effort despite the proposed budget shift.

The Army initially requested a total of $1.23 billion for the WIN-T program in fiscal 2013, according to Pentagon budget documents. That figure includes $893 million for procurement, $278 million for research and development and $55 million for spares.

In their letter to McHugh, the senators said Congress already reduced funding for the program by $381 million due to "Army contracting delays." If lawmakers approve the additional reduction of $128 million, the program would be cut by a total of $509 million.

The service faces a potential budget shortfall of more than $15 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30, leaders have told Congress. More than half of that stems from war-related expenses, including higher-than-expected costs to remove equipment from Afghanistan.

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