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House Appropriators Fund Growlers, Not A-10s

A U.S. House of Representatives panel that oversees defense spending has added funding next year for EA-18 electronic warfare jets, but not A-10 attack planes.

The House Appropriations Committee led by Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, on Thursday released a draft defense spending bill for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1.

The panel's defense subcommittee headed by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey, on Friday morning approved the legislation in a closed session, according to a spokeswoman. The full committee hasn't yet set a date to begin debating the bill, she said.

Overall, the legislation includes more funding for weapons procurement than the President Barack Obama's budget request, but less money for research and development and operations and maintenance, according to a press release from the committee.

The bill would authorize $91.2 billion for procurement -- $1.6 billion above the president's request. That includes $14.3 billion for six Navy ships, including $789 million to refuel the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The procurement money also includes $5.8 billion for 38 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp.; $2.4 billion for 87 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and 37 MH-60S/R choppers made by United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky unit; and $1.6 billion for seven KC-46A refueling tankers made by Boeing Co.

What's more, House appropriators added $975 million for 12 EA-18G Growlers, also made by Boeing. That's more than the $450 million their counterparts on the House Armed Services Committee included in the defense policy bill for five of the aircraft. The added funding comes after an aggressive lobbying campaign by the Chicago-based aerospace giant to promote the radar-penetrating qualities of the jet over the F-35.

However, despite a similarly strong push from supporters of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, the lawmakers didn't include any funding for the Cold War-era gunship.

The Air Force wants to retire the aircraft to save $4.2 billion over five years. Lawmakers on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees disagreed with the service's plan and restored funding to keep the planes flying for at least another year. And so the battle over the fate of the Warthog rages on.

On the technology development front, the bill contains $63.4 billion for research and development -- $171 million less than the president's request. The funding would go to such programs as the Air Force's next-generation bomber; the Navy's P8-A Poseidon surveillance plane, RQ-4 Triton drone and future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System; and the Army and Marine Corps' Humvee replacement known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

On other hot-button issues, the legislation would give troops a 1.8 percent pay raise, rather than the 1 percent requested by Pentagon officials, and benefits designed to cover all of their housing costs.

It would also block the Army from transferring AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard to the active component as part of plan to restructure aviation assets, and prevent the Pentagon from transferring detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay to U.S. states or territories.

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