Efforts by House Republicans to appropriate funding to establish a third missile defense site in the United States are likely to encounter a roadblock when their spending legislation goes before the Democratic-led Senate, which is dubious of the merits of the project, Roll Call reported on Tuesday.
The GOP-dominated lower chamber last week approved its fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill, which included a measure that would provide an extra $107 million to the Pentagon's request to purchase additional Ground Based Interceptors for the country's Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.
Proponents of expanding U.S. homeland missile defenses argue it is necessary to defend against the evolving ballistic missile threat from Iran. The United States currently has two interceptor sites in Alaska and California under the GMD system; their location is primarily geared toward fending off a potential long-range missile attack by North Korea.
The Defense Department is in the midst of a congressionally mandated study into possible locations for establishing a third interceptor site. Capitol Hill assigned $100 million in its fiscal 2013 defense authorization law for the review, but no decision has been made on whether to proceed with building any new installation.
Several key Senate Democrats last week said they would fight any effort to assign more funding than what the Pentagon has requested to improve the Ground Based Interceptor, which has not had a successful test intercept in years.
"Before we go forward on missile defense we need a successful test, period," Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said. "Before we expand the missile defense layout to include the East Coast, we need a pretty fulsome debate after a successful test."
"I think we owe it to the taxpayers to say we want a country that is safe. We want a system that works. We want a test that proves it," the Illinois lawmaker said.
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency has scheduled the next GBI intercept attempt for March, but is eyeing options for a second test, as well, within the next year.
Durbin's subcommittee finished marking up the appropriations legislation on Tuesday. The wider Appropriations Committee is slated to review the bill on Thursday.