Senate panel OKs funds to continue B-2 bomber But proposal faces likely opposition


WASHINGTON -- The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to continue building the B-2 Stealth bomber, a position likely to meet fierce opposition on the Senate floor and in conference with the House.

The committee unveiled a 1992 defense authorization bill yesterday that also sets up Senate floor fights or conflicts with the House over women in combat, abortion and the F-16 and F-117 fighters.

Postponed until next week was committee action on the Strategic Defense Initiative, the only part of the bill left unfinished.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, chairman of the committee's personnel subcommittee, predicted that the bill would go to the full Senate by the beginning of August.

President Bush and both congressional chambers have already agreed to authorize $291 billion in military spending for next year, but there are major disputes about how the money should be spent.

The House voted in May to stop B-2 production after the already authorized 15 planes are built, but to spend $1.6 billion for continuing Stealth bomber research. The Senate committee approved the research funds and $3.2 billion for buying four more planes.

The Senate committee also added $1 billion to buy 24 F-117 Stealth fighters, which the administration did not request, while deleting $1 billion requested for 48 F-16s. The House approved the F-16 purchases and added no money for F-117s.

The Senate panel voted to create a 15-member presidential commission to report by Dec. 15, 1992, on whether women should be allowed in combat. The House voted to allow the services to decide whether to put women in combat aircraft.

Mr. Glenn said that he and Sen. Tim Wirth, D-Colo., would offer an amendment to provide for abortions at U.S. military facilities overseas. The House bill also contains that provision.

The Senate committee approved $1.5 billion to buy four C-17 transports. The House approved the full administration request of $2 billion for six of the aircraft.

Both the House and the Senate panel approved the administration's request for $1.6 billion to start full-scale development of the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter.

The Armed Service Committee's chairman, Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and its ranking Republican, Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, said that the committee's decisions were greatly influenced by the Persian Gulf war, the thawing of the Cold War and the Soviet Union's continued strategic military strength.

For instance, while the F-16 and F-117 performed well in the gulf, the Air Force used only 250 of the 1,600 F-16s in its arsenal, Mr. Nunn said.

"We have to ask: How many more do we need?" he said, particularly since the Air Force says the F-117 is more effective.

Other key provisions of the bill include a 4.2 percent military pay raise, increased spending for tactical intelligence, modernized Marine Corps equipment, improved anti-mine equipment, purchase of more Patriot missiles, increased spending on conventional ammunition and purchase of 12 MX missiles not sought by the administration.

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