A handful of Democrats put forward amendments that would have canceled or cut funding to weapons so that more money would be available for deficit reduction during House debate of the 2013 defense authorization bill May 17. All of the amendments were voted down.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., offered an amendment to terminate the F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft program. The amendment would have directed the available funds to be used for deficit reduction and to procure additional F/A-18E/F aircraft.
Conyers said canceling the F-35B could save $50 billion over the life of the program. The entire JSF program, which includes two other variants, is slated to cost $1.5 trillion.
Facing cost and schedule problems, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put the F-35B on a two-year probation, saying that if it didn’t improve, the program should be canceled. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta removed the program from probation in January.
Speaking in opposition of the amendment, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., noted President Obama and Panetta support the F-35B program and funded it in the Pentagon’s 2013 budget.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also spoke out against the Conyers amendment.
He said the F-35B offers more capability than the F/A-18 and that cutting this variant would jeopardize the whole JSF program, for which there are several international partners.
“It is unfortunate the extent to which we have to rely on the program, but we have to make this work,” Smith said.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, put forward an amendment that would eliminate funds for the V-22 Osprey aircraft, directing the savings to deficit reduction. He called the aircraft “dangerous pork with wings.”
No Democrat other than Quigley spoke out against the program, but several lawmakers took the opportunity to voice support for the V-22.
Smith said the V-22 had faced a number of problems, but it has since overcome them.
The Conyers and Quigley amendments were rejected by voice vote.
An amendment from Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., would have prohibited any funds from being used for the research, development, testing and evaluation of a long-range penetrating bomber aircraft, delaying the program by 10 years.
“Why are we buying a new nuclear bomber? It’s 2012,” Markey said. “Of all the things America doesn’t need right now, it’s another nuclear bomber. We don’t have any more targets to hit.”
Several Republicans argued to keep funding for a new bomber, while Markey had to make his argument on his own without any help from his Democratic colleagues.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., opposed the Markey amendment, saying long-range bomber aircraft are needed not to carry nuclear weapons but to carry smart conventional weapons.
The Markey amendment failed, with a vote of 308 to 112.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., offered an amendment that would cut funding that was added to the Pentagon’s request for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.
Last week, the House Armed Services Committee voted to boost spending for the GMD system by $460 million above the $903 million already requested by the Pentagon. The Polis amendment would scale the new funding back by $403 million.
The funding provided in the House Armed Services Committee’s bill includes $100 million for the Defense Department to evaluate possible locations for a new covered missile defense site on the U.S. East Coast.
Smith supported the Polis amendment, one of a handful of amendments proposed by Democrats to undo funding added by Republicans to the Pentagon’s missile defense budget request.
More testing is needed before further funding is provided to the GMD system, Polis said.
The Polis amendment was voted down, 252 to 165.