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House Measure Cuts $183.5 Million From Missile Defense Budget

By | May 8, 2006

      The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chopped a total $183.5 million from President Bush’s budget proposal for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
      That came as the panel moved to authorize a total $51.1 billion of strategic programs, including $7.9 billion for procurement and $29.1 billion for research and development of strategic forces. All strategic forces programs received a net cut of $142 million, more than entirely accounted for by reductions in MDA programs.
      That $183.5 million of cuts to the MDA authorization is the net result of adding funds to some programs, while cutting a larger number of other programs.
      Generally, the HASC approach was to add money for missile programs where it sees a promising chance of success, while punishing programs that don’t seem likely to produce great results soon.
      "The [HASC projection forces] subcommittee is concerned with striking the right balance between technical risks and providing increased capability to the warfighter," the HASC noted. "Accordingly, the [committee] shifts funds to programs with a more near term capability for the warfighter and makes reductions to several programs that are less mature."
      The HASC made these decisions as it wrote the U.S. military authorization bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2007. Separate congressional legislation, handled by other committees, will be required to provide the dollars that actually will be spent.
      Programs winning in HASC deliberations included a $20 million increase for concurrent testing and operations for the ground-based midcourse defense systems (GMD).
      This is a system aimed at annihilating incoming enemy ballistic missiles midway through their trajectory toward U.S. forces or territory.
      North Korea has stated it is stockpiling nuclear weapons. Also, the rogue state is developing a long-range Taepo Dong missile that would be capable of striking targets throughout North America.
      The ground-based program thus far has moved forward with construction of silos and other infrastructure.
      Another anti-ballistic missile program with a better track record is sea-based, having scored repeated successes in tests against target missiles.
      Accordingly, the HASC provided $40 million extra for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, with half of that earmarked for additional SM-3 (Standard Missile-3) interceptors. Lockheed Martin Corp. makes the radar/weapons system, and Raytheon Co. makes the interceptor missile.
      And there was $140 million added to the program upgrading Patriot missile batteries from the PAC-2 to the PAC-3 configuration. This is a Raytheon product that has been used in Iraq, capable of knocking down surface-to-surface missiles.
      That’s the good news for companies.
      However, the HASC also chopped $100 million out of the request for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program. Basically, KEI involves sending something that weighs a lot, hurtling at enormous speed, slamming into an incoming enemy missile. Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon and others are involved in the program.
      The HASC also imposed a $55.8 million cut in the authorization for the third site activation for the ground-based missile defense system, perhaps a reflection of tests where the GMD has suffered malfunctions.
      Another area hit with a reduction was the Multiple Kill Vehicle, losing $65 million of its authorization. The MDA two years ago awarded the contract to Lockheed.
      As well, there was a $40.7 million cut in the High Altitude Airship technology demonstration program. This Lockheed product basically would be a blimp that would operate at commanding heights as a relay node in a telecommunications network, for intel observation or other purposes. This could be used in place of satellites in some circumstances.
      Some $30 million was yanked out of the Space Radar program, which in six or seven years would orbit some 10 to 24 satellites to track vehicles, tanks, planes, even people as they move below.
      Another area getting whacked was the Transformational Communications Satellite program, losing $80 million. This would be a constellation of satellites providing laser communications for users on the ground. There would be perhaps five birds in a program eventually taking a total $12 billion to $18 billion.
      Finally, the HASC expressed nervousness about a missile program that has been years in the making. Lawmakers are worried by the conversion of Trident submarine platforms wielding Cold War nuclear-tipped ballistic missile into a new war-on-terrorism capability, firing conventional-warhead missiles.
      What if some nation thinks that a conventional weapon being fired from a U.S. submarine is a nuclear-warhead missile aimed toward it, committee members worry.
      Therefore the HASC cut $47 million out of this development program, leaving $30 million, according to a Democratic briefing sheet.
      Even then, some $10 million of the $30 million will be frozen until after the Department of Defense reports on talks about the problem that it is holding with other nations.

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