House-Senate Defense Bill Seeks New Radar Against N. Korea Threat

A semi-submersible, self-propelled X-band radar that provides ballistic missile-tracking information is pictured in this undated photo. House-Senate conference legislation would require the U.S. military to buy an additional radar system to patrol for possible long-range missile attacks by North Korea.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
Dec. 10, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Sen­ate and House ne­go­ti­at­ors on Monday an­nounced they had hammered out bi­par­tis­an le­gis­la­tion that would re­quire the Pentagon’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency to field a new radar to de­tect any long-range mis­siles that North Korea may fire against the United States.

The two cham­bers agreed to a fisc­al 2014 de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion con­fer­ence bill that iden­ti­fies $30 mil­lion in ad­di­tion­al funds to ini­ti­ate de­ploy­ment.

The U.S. mil­it­ary presently fields an early-warn­ing radar at a base in north­ern Ja­pan and is plan­ning on de­ploy­ing a second, long-range sensor with­in the year at an­oth­er site in the East Asi­an coun­try. The moves are part of an al­lied ini­ti­at­ive to boost the early de­tec­tion and mon­it­or­ing of pos­sible North Korean mis­sile launches.

The in­crease for the ad­di­tion­al radar is among more than $350 mil­lion in ex­tra funds the House and Sen­ate law­makers have agreed to ap­ply to mis­sile de­fense pro­grams in the joint bill, which could be sent to the White House by the end of this week.

The De­fense De­part­ment policy-set­ting le­gis­la­tion con­tains $607 bil­lion in au­thor­ized fund­ing, in­clud­ing $9.5 bil­lion for mis­sile de­fense activ­it­ies — a $358 mil­lion boost over what the Pentagon had re­ques­ted for the year, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Lev­in’s (D-Mich.) of­fice.

Both cham­bers are sus­pend­ing nor­mal rules of or­der and likely fore­go­ing votes on con­tro­ver­sial amend­ments such as more sanc­tions on Ir­an in a bid to get the bill to Pres­id­ent Obama for sign­ing be­fore the end of Decem­ber, ac­cord­ing to The Hill news­pa­per.

The House is sched­uled to break for its hol­i­day re­cess on Fri­day and the Sen­ate could ad­journ a week after that. The deal reached by con­gres­sion­al ne­go­ti­at­ors does away with the need for a bicam­er­al con­fer­ence re­port, which means the Sen­ate only has to vote on the le­gis­la­tion once, Politico re­por­ted. The House already passed its ver­sion of the bill.

For mis­sile de­fense, the bill in­cludes a set-aside of an ad­di­tion­al $80 mil­lion to fix a tech­no­logy mal­func­tion that caused a high-pro­file Ju­ly test of the coun­try’s Ground-based Mid­course De­fense sys­tem to fail. The mis­sile in­ter­cept failed when the kin­et­ic kill vehicle of the Ground Based In­ter­cept­or fired in the test did not prop­erly sep­ar­ate from its rock­et boost­er.

The bill also in­cludes $80 mil­lion for work on an “en­hanced kill vehicle and dis­crim­in­a­tion cap­ab­il­it­ies” for the GMD sys­tem, which is the coun­try’s prin­cip­al de­fense against pos­sible long-range bal­list­ic mis­sile at­tacks by North Korea and Ir­an. The dif­fi­culty that GMD sensors have in dis­tin­guish­ing between ac­tu­al war­heads and de­coys has re­peatedly been raised by tech­nic­al ex­perts as a ser­i­ous flaw with the sys­tem.

Oth­er mis­sile de­fense and nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al-re­lated pro­vi­sions in the le­gis­la­tion in­clude:

— A re­quire­ment that the Pentagon “en­sure the cap­ab­il­ity” of field­ing more sensors on the U.S. East Coast to guard against pos­sible in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles launched by Ir­an.

— A pro­hib­i­tion on us­ing any U.S. funds to in­teg­rate a Chinese an­ti­mis­sile tech­no­logy with U.S. mis­sile de­fense sys­tems. The meas­ure ap­par­ently is aimed at de­ter­ring Tur­key from pur­chas­ing a Chinese sys­tem that Ank­ara wants to con­nect to the evolving NATO mis­sile shield. The al­li­ance an­ti­mis­sile net­work is be­ing built largely with U.S. tech­no­logy.

— A man­date that the De­fense De­part­ment brief Con­gress on any en­vir­on­ment­al as­sess­ments of the im­pact of a po­ten­tial third in­ter­cept­or site un­der the GMD sys­tem. The meas­ure au­thor­izes $20 mil­lion for the con­tin­ued study and plan­ning of the pos­sible com­plex.

— An in­crease of $173 mil­lion above the Pentagon’s $96 mil­lion re­quest for joint U.S.-Is­raeli an­ti­mis­sile activ­it­ies, which in­clude nearly $34 mil­lion for work on the de­vel­op­ment­al long-range Ar­row 3 mis­sile in­ter­cept­or.

— An au­thor­iz­a­tion of $543 mil­lion — a boost of $40 mil­lion over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­quest — for the con­tro­ver­sial ef­fort to build the Mixed Ox­ide Fuel Fab­ric­a­tion Fa­cil­ity in South Car­o­lina.

— The es­tab­lish­ment of a “Nuc­le­ar Com­mand, Con­trol, and Com­mu­nic­a­tions Coun­cil” in­side the Pentagon that would fo­cus on up­dat­ing and bet­ter co­ordin­at­ing seni­or lead­ers’ com­mu­nic­a­tions sys­tems.

— A sense of the Con­gress that the ef­fects of the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the New START arms con­trol ac­cord with Rus­sia should be dis­trib­uted as evenly as pos­sible among the coun­try’s ICBM wings.

— The au­thor­iz­a­tion of work on re­mov­ing the nuc­le­ar role of some of the Air Force’s B-52H bombers, once the Pentagon has provided its plans for bring­ing the coun­try’s stra­tegic nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al in­to com­pli­ance with New START.

— A re­quire­ment that the En­ergy De­part­ment cer­ti­fy to Con­gress that its nuc­le­ar-weapon sites hold­ing sens­it­ive atom­ic ma­ter­i­als meet de­part­ment stand­ards for phys­ic­al se­cur­ity.

— A sense of the Con­gress that any po­ten­tial new bi­lat­er­al arms con­trol re­duc­tions with Rus­sia be un­der­taken “through a mu­tu­ally ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment, be veri­fi­able, take in­to ac­count tac­tic­al nuc­le­ar weapons, and be sub­ject to Sen­ate ad­vice and con­sent.”

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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