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Conferees from the U.S. House and Senate agreed to a $491.5 billion defense budget for 2006, but expressed alarm at spiraling weapons prices and included steps in their legislation to rein in procurement costs.
The bill includes $441.5 billion for the annual defense budget and $50 billion in emergency funding to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It includes $76.9 billion to buy weapons and equipment, and $70 billion to research and develop new weapons. Throughout 2005, members of Congress worried that weapons prices were out of control. In particular, the price tags for some ships more than doubled, forcing the Navy to restrict its building plans to just four ships in 2006.
The House wanted to double the number of ships to be built, but the Senate supported the Navy’s plan. Conferees appear to have agreed to split the difference, ordering six ships with the possibility that a seventh, a DDG-51 destroyer, may also be built.
Lawmakers experienced sticker shock when looking at Army and Air Force programs, too.
The cost of the Army’s Future Combat Systems soared to $161 billion in 2005, up from its original price of $92 billion. The Air Force’s C-130J, which was bought as a “commercial” item, increased from $34 million a plane in 1995 to $66.5 million.
Ordered the Navy to maintain a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers.