The Senate Armed Services Committee, quickly following lead of its House counterpart, yesterday pushed aside President Carter's newest shopping list of weapons and approved instead the vetoed defense bill, minus the Nimitz nuclear aircraft carrier.
With the $2 billion for the Nimitz deleted and $209 million added to pay shipbuilders' bills, the rewritten measure would authorize the Pentagon to spend $35.2 billion on weapons and research in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Although most of the rest of the $126 billion Carter sought for defense will be covered in a separate appropriations bill pending in Congress, the loss of the Nimitz money will keep the president from reaching his announced objective of increasing the fiscal 1979 defense budget by about 3 percent over the current year's budget.
The administration pledge to NATO allies earlier this year that the United States would increase its defense spending by 3 per cent a year after allowing for inflation, in fiscal years 1979 through 1984 to combat the steady Soviet military buildup.
With the House and Senate virtually certain to go along with the smaller bill just approved by its military committees, Carter will have to request additional money for defense later to boost his fiscal '79 total back up to $126 billion.
Defense Secretary Harold Brown, a a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, repeated that it is "likely" the president will submit a request for supplemental funds "no later than this January."
The administration tried to take a legislative shortcut by sending Congress "wish list" of weapons and research to be financed by the $2 billion saved by deleting the Nimitz. But Chairman John C. Stennis (D-Miss.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee said it was too late in the legislative session for Congress to consider such a long list of projects.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) told Brown it is "regrettable" that the net effect of the president's veto is "an overall decrease in military capabilities" when "everybody for the first time" seemed persuaded that defense spending should be increased.
Stennis served notice that his committee, if the administration does request additional defense money for fiscal 1979, does not want to see a replay of a previous year when five navies were being proposed at once.
"We had the Taft navy, the Rickover navy, the Holloway navy, the Ford navy and the committee navy," he complained.
His references were to the different navy shipbuiling programs championed by former senator Robert Taft (R-Ohio); Adm. H. G. Rickover; Adm. James L. Holloway, former chief of naval operations; former president Gerald R. Ford, and the senate Armed Services Committee.
Before unanimously approving the rewrite of the vetoed defense bill, the Senate committee rejected resolutions by Sen. William Proxmire (D-wis.) to forbid the Navy to pay off more than $500 million in disputed bills filed by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics and the Litton shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.