House Panel Approves Spending Extra $60 Million on Antimissile System

Technicians prepare a Ground Based Interceptor to be placed into a missile field at the Missile Defense Complex in Fort Greely, Alaska, in February 2012. Legislation approved by a House committee on Thursday would boost funding for the country's homeland missile defense program.
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Rachel Oswald
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Rachel Oswald
May 8, 2014, 10:56 a.m.

A key House pan­el on Thursday ap­proved a bill that would in­crease fund­ing by at least $60 mil­lion for a home­land mis­sile de­fense sys­tem.

The cham­ber’s Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in a un­an­im­ous vote just after mid­night ap­proved an­nu­al de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion that in­cluded a num­ber of mis­sile de­fense-re­lated meas­ures, such as $20 mil­lion in fund­ing to be­gin con­struct­ing a third do­mest­ic in­ter­cept­or site. The bill also in­cludes an ex­tra $40 mil­lion for the Ground-Based Mid­course De­fense sys­tem.

The De­fense De­part­ment did not seek fund­ing in its fisc­al 2015 budget re­quest for con­struc­tion of a third in­ter­cept­or site. The Pentagon is cur­rently study­ing pos­sible loc­a­tions for the site on the East Coast. The de­part­ment has not yet de­cided if it will move for­ward with build­ing the fa­cil­ity, which is a favored de­fense pro­ject for Re­pub­lic­ans who are con­cerned about a pos­sible mis­sile at­tack by Ir­an.

The two ex­ist­ing in­ter­cept­or sites in the coun­try are loc­ated in Alaska and Cali­for­nia and are part of the Ground-Based Mid­course De­fense sys­tem, which is un­der heavy scru­tiny due to a string of ex­pens­ive in­ter­cept test fail­ures. The Pentagon had re­ques­ted just over $1 bil­lion for the pro­gram for the com­ing fisc­al year. However, the Re­pub­lic­an-led HASC pan­el chose to boost that fig­ure by $40 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the draft bill text.

The le­gis­la­tion also in­cludes lan­guage that would hasten the de­ploy­ment of U.S. mis­sile de­fenses in Po­land. An amend­ment in­tro­duced by U.S. Rep­res­ent­at­ive Mike Turn­er (R-Ohio) and ap­proved by the com­mit­tee would re­quire the Pentagon to ac­tiv­ate no later than the end of 2016 an Ae­gis Ashore sys­tem in the East­ern European coun­try. Po­land has already agreed to host an Ae­gis in­ter­cept­or fa­cil­ity as part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “Phased Ad­apt­ive Ap­proach” for European mis­sile de­fense, but that site is cur­rently not planned to go on­line be­fore the 2018-to-2020 time­frame.

Re­pub­lic­ans in the Sen­ate have in­tro­duced their own bill that would re­quire the ad­min­is­tra­tion to study op­tions for speed­ing up ac­tiv­a­tion of the Pol­ish mis­sile in­ter­cept­or site by the end of 2016.

But 2016 is not soon enough for Turn­er for achiev­ing an op­er­a­tion­al an­ti­mis­sile ca­pa­city in Po­land. In ad­di­tion to ac­cel­er­at­ing the timetable for stand­ing up the planned Ae­gis site, his amend­ment would re­quire the U.S. mil­it­ary by the end of this year to field a “short-range air and mis­sile de­fense cap­ab­il­ity or ter­min­al mis­sile de­fense cap­ab­il­ity, or both, and the per­son­nel re­quired to op­er­ate and main­tain such [a] sys­tem” in the NATO-al­lied na­tion.

The House floor is an­ti­cip­ated to take up the de­fense au­thor­iz­a­tion bill dur­ing the week of May 19, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Arms Con­trol and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, which tracks con­gres­sion­al ac­tions re­lated to nuc­le­ar weapons and mis­sile de­fense. The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee plans to be­gin writ­ing its own ver­sion of the bill on May 20.

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