Lawmakers reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a 1991 defense bill that slashes nearly $2 billion from President Bush's budget request for the Strategic Defense Initiative but continues production of the B-2 Stealth bomber.

House and Senate negotiators, meeting behind closed doors on a military blueprint for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, signed off on the $289 billion package - $18 billion less than Bush sought in January, lawmakers said.Among the major provisions are a $1.8 billion cut in the president's $4.7 billion request for SDI, commonly known as Star Wars. The Senate had approved $3.7 billion for the anti-missile shield while the House had agreed to a total of $2.3 billion.

The compromise worked out on the key sticking point - the B-2 Stealth bomber - moves ahead with production of the aircraft but remains silent on future procurement.

"It's good news, bad news," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a B-2 proponent.

In its defense bill, the House voted to stop production of the radar-evading B-2 bomber at the 15 planes under construction. The bat-winged aircraft is the costliest in history at nearly $865 million a copy.

The Senate, in its legislation, approved the administration's request for $5.1 billion this fiscal year to buy two planes for a total of 17 and parts for aircraft in fiscal 1992.

The compromise in the final bill calls for $4.1 billion for the stealth program, including $1.8 billion for research and development on the aircraft. The Air Force could spend the money as it deemed fit.