The House of Representatives yesterday easily defeated an effort to knock out of the Defense Department appropriation bill $65 million for the Army's purchase of non-nuclear Lance missiles.
The 226 to 123 vote came as the House began consideration of its Appropriations Committee's $110.6 billion recommendation for Defense Department spending in fiscal 1978, beginning October 1.
The major issues in the bill - construction of five B-1 bombers, a prohibition on "double-dipping" by military retirees who got to work for the government and continue to collect retirement checks, and deletion of funds for two controversial communications systems - are expected to come up when debate resumes Tuesday.
The Lance missile is an artillery weapon that would be used mainly during a conventional land war. The weapon can be adapted for both regular nuclear and neutron radiation warheads, but the version debated yesterday is strictly for conventional, or non-unclear, use.
The Defense Department had not included any non-nuclear lance missiles in its fiscal year 1978 budget request. But the Appropriations Committee, by a one vote margin, put $65 million for the missiles in the budget.
Rep. Thomas Addabbo (D.N.Y.) introduced an amendment to strike from the bill all the money for the missile, which he called an "unusuable, inefficient weapon" that has "yet to prove its value."
The major argument advanced for keeping the Lance in the bill was that it would provide artillery units an alternative to using nuclear weapons in battle.
The weapon could be used by the six American artillery battalions stationed in Europe, said Rep. Robert L. F. Sikes (D-Fla.).
"These battalions, if a war occurs, are going to have to just sit on their hands" or use nuclear weapons, he said. "This (missile) in my judgement, raises the nuclear threshold significantly.