The House Armed Services Committee yesterday shot down the CX cargo plane President Carter wants after it voted billions for other weapons he does not desire.
If sustained, the 22-to-17 vote against the CX would be a devastating blow to Carter's plans for a Rapid Deployment Force to rush to the Persian Gulf and other distant spots, and administration officials will push for a reversal.
Chairman Richard H. Ichord (D-Mo.) of the House research and development subcommittee, which shot most of the holes in the CX, said last night he would not be surprised if there is an attempt to reverse the vote today.
The administration has asked the committee to authorize $80.7 million as a down payment on the CX. That is what the committee declined to do.
However, arguments the last two days on the defense procurement bill have dramatized that the opposition to the CX goes far beyond providing the money. "Spending money has never bothered this committee," said one member yesterday.
As Rep. Lucien N. Nedzi (D-Mich.) said during yesterday's debate on the CX, "There is a concern that the amount you're asking for here is going to be taken away from some other programs."
The "other programs," said committee staffer Tony Battista in an unusual confrontation with Deputy Defense Secretary W. Grahm Claytor Jr., include some dear to the Armed Services Committee -- like the Marine's AV8B jump jet and a modified version of the B1 bomber. Carter wants neither.
Battista read from a Pentagon memo on what programs might be cut to pay for new programs like the CX. From his seat at the witness table Claytor snapped: "That's six weeks old." f
"The date on the memo is March 24, Mr. Chairman," retorted Battista, touching off laughter and applause from fellow staff members.
Rep. Claude (Buddy) Leach (D-La.) contended that authorizing the CX money without knowing what programs the Pentagon would cut in its stead would be "another example of why there has been an erosion of responsibility on this committee."
Ichord concentrated his fire on the airplane, telling the committee that it would end up costing $12 billion without providing much better airlift than the Lockheed C5 cargo jet.
The C5 and the proposed CX could carry only one of the Army's new 60-ton XM1 tanks at a time. But William J. Perry, Pentagon research director, insisted that the CX would be a big improvement over the C5, partly because it could land on rough air strips. The C5 required the equivalent of an international airport.
Tying the CX request to crises in Iran and Afghanistan, Perry said: "We have a different set of priorities now than we had last November."
Ichord countered that the CX, to be available in 1986, would not solve any of today's mobility problems and that the country would be better served by spending the money on ships to support the Rapid Deployment Force.
Some other members bristled at the suggestion the CX is related to present crises in the Mideast.
Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.) asked if the request for the CX was not just "a little window dressing." Rep. Samuel S. Stratton (D-N.Y.) suggested to Lt. Gen. P. X. Kelley, commander of the Rapid Deployment Force who testified for the CX, that he talk to the Israeli general in charge of the Entebbe raid on how to rescue hostages.
The way things are going in Iran, Stratton complained, "it looks as though we're going to have to wait for the milk of human kindness to flow through the Ayatolla khomeini's veins."
But put projects of committee members had smoother sailing.
Despite the opposition of Chairman Melvin Price (D-Ill.) of the full committee, Rep. Beverly B. Byron (D-Md.) had no trouble getting an extra $30 million to build 30 A10 two-seat attack planes. The single-seat A10 is built by Fairchild Republic Corp. in her congressional district.
"That comes to $1 million a seat," quipped one staffer when Byron's addition was passed, 25 to 13.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), who often scolds colleagues for their extravagance in funding weapons, succeeded in getting $13.7 million restored for a command center likely to be put in her home state. The research subcommittee had deleted that.
Rep. Larry McDonald (D-Ga.), on a 24-to-15 vote, got $119 million for six C9 aircraft; Rep. Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.), $55 million for 17 Cobra helicopters for the Army reserves; Rep. Mendel J. Davis (D-S.C.) $25 million for electronics for the reconnaissance version of the F4 fighter-bomber; Rep. Bob Wilson (R-Calif.) $6 million for surface effect ship that might fit into the Rapid Deployment Force; Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Calif.) $17 million to upgrade the P3 patrol plane built by Lockheed which has a plant in his state.
But the big spender turned out to be the seapower subcommittee, which added $2.2 billion to Carter's $46.8 billion request to buy or reactivate ships, he does not want, including bringing the battleship New Jersey out of mothballs. The Navy is running short of technical people to run the warships it already has.
Nobody talked about the need to balance the federal budget to damp down inflation as these and other amendments were rammed through the House Armed Services Committee, raising the president's request by $5.6 billion. It will not be up to the House Appropriations Committee to make the cuts needed to make the procurement bill fit within the congressionally imposed budget ceiling.
Scholded Ichord: "All you're doing is sending a shopping list to the Appropriations Committee."