Bush signs defense bill with aircraft carrier, sub funding

WASHINGTON - President Bush signed a defense spending bill Tuesday that includes money for the Gerald Ford aircraft carrier construction in Newport News and advance funding aimed at speeding up submarine construction.

The annual defense appropriations bill, which totals about $460 billion, includes about $2.8 billion for the Ford carrier, as Bush first requested in February.

The Navy is hoping to build the ship for $8.1 billion, not counting the research and development costs for designing a new class of carrier. Outside experts warn the price is sure to rise.

The $2.8 billion in the legislation, when combined with advance funding already allocated, would cover about 40 percent of the cost of the ship. The remaining 60 percent is due to be provided in next year's budget request.

The measure also provides about $2.5 billion for another Virginia-class attack submarine, which is built jointly by Northrop Grumman Newport News and the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. That money was likewise requested in February and has never been at risk.

Congress also added about $588 million to buy materials needed to speed up plans to double submarine production. The Navy plans to double the procurement rate-- buying 2 submarines per year instead of 1-- beginning in 2012. The extra funding included in the defense bill would allow for Congress to speed up the process by two years, if additional funding follows.

Congress also added $2 million for continued research in laser technology at the Jefferson Lab in Newport News.

But the bill does not include about $196 billion Bush requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress plans to take up the war funding in a separate bill as Democrats seek to attach restrictions on its use.

A companion defense policy bill, authored by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, has yet to be completed. Negotiators are working on reconciling differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill..