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Senate Committee Trims Next Year's Defense Budget: The Senate's draft version of next fiscal year's defense authorization bill provides $682.5 billion for national defense discretionary programs, $6.4 billion less than President Obama's $688.9 billion request. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the draft legislation last week, authorizing $547.1 billion for the Pentagon's base budget ($5.9 billion less than Obama's $553 billion request), $117.3 billion for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq ($537 million less), and some $18.1 billion (minor addition) for Energy Department national security programs, according to the release summarizing the committee's marks. Among the Air Force-related highlights, the SASC fully funded F-35A procurement (19 aircraft) and development of the next-generation bomber. The committee also authorized the block purchase of two Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites using a fixed-price contract and with incremental funding. It permitted the Air Force to retire six B-1 bombers, but prohibited any U-2 retirements until the Defense Department certifies that its planned successor, the RQ-4 Global Hawk, costs less to operate and sustain. The House provided roughly $690 billon in its version of the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill passed in May.