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House Begins Defense Bill Mark-up: Members of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday began their mark-up of the Pentagon's $670.9 billion budget request for Fiscal 2012. Among the Air Force-related highlights, the seapower and projection forces subcommittee would allow the retirement of six B-1B bombers, but not allow the service to reduce the number of combat-configured B-1s below the current level of 36. The strategic forces panel would authorize the Air Force to enter into a fixed-price contract to procure two Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites and incrementally fund those two satellites over five years. However, that panel's mark "does not authorize advanced appropriations . . . but meets Air Force intent." The tactical air and land forces panel would limit "the obligation or expenditure of funds" for F-35 engine performance improvements unless the Defense Secretary "ensures the competitive development and production of such propulsion system." (An attempt to keep F136 work going?) The military personnel subcommittee would cut 11 Air Force general officer authorizations, whereas the Pentagon wants to shed to 22 Air Force GO positions as part of broader billet reductions. (See HASC subcommittee mark webpage with links to each panel's press release and mark.)