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EDWARDS PROGRAM FACES BUDGET CUT BOEING LOBBIES TO SAVE FLYING LASER WEAPON.

Byline: JIM SKEEN

Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE -- Most Antelope Valley projects fared well in the 2008 defense authorization bill that emerged this week from the House Armed Services Committee, but the Airborne Laser program is still facing a cut of $250 million.

The House committee voted to reduce a proposed cut of $400 million to $250 million for the Airborne Laser program, one of the largest research projects at Edwards Air Force Base. The move leaves the program with $298 million.

"We are very grateful that the full House Armed Services Committee restored some of the money cut from the Airborne Laser program," officials with the Boeing Co., the lead contractor on the project, said in a statement. "The committee's bill still reduces the president's budget request for this vital capability by almost half. A reduction of that magnitude would have a significant impact on the program."

Boeing said it would continue to work to try to get the rest of the funding restored.

The program, employing about 700 workers at Edwards, is aimed at proving a flying laser weapon can be used to destroy ballistic missiles. Program officials said the president's proposed budget would extend their efforts through to a 2009 shoot-down of a missile to prove the concept.

A subcommittee initially had proposed a $400 million cut, stating it wanted to invest in near-term technologies and weapon systems that could have immediate benefit for fighters while making "prudent" investments in longer term, riskier projects.

Although some of the funding was restored, the committee cited "concern with future costs and operational capabilities of the system" in not providing the full $549 million request.

Other Antelope Valley-related projects fared better in the $503.8-billion bill, which would not take effect unless approved by the full House of Representatives, reconciled with the Senate's budget version and signed by the president.

Other local projects include the F-35 joint strike fighter, which was earmarked to receive $5.9 billion. Northrop Grumman workers in Palmdale assemble the center fuselage of the fighters.

Lockheed Martin also builds parts for the F-35s in Palmdale.

The Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft was set to receive $514 million, including funding for the construction of five more aircraft. Northrop Grumman conducts final assembly of the aircraft in Palmdale.

The House committee reduced funding for B-2 stealth bomber modifications and research and development by $166.8 million to $453.3 million.

james.skeen(at)dailynews

(661) 267-5743
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 2007
Words:409
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