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Republicans Rally For Missile Defense Funding

By | May 21, 2007

      By Jen DiMascio

      Stressing national security threats around the globe, a number of House Republicans are pushing strongly to restore money cut from the Missile Defense Agency budget in the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill.

      “There is no question the United States faces a growing threat by Iran, by North Korea and China in the area of missile defense,” said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the deputy minority whip.

      Cantor and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) briefed reporters along with fellow Republicans about an amendment to the authorization bill that would add $764 million back to MDA’s coffers, which were cut from the president’s budget request of $8.9 billion.

      According to the bill, the Houser Armed Services Committee (HASC) recommendations regarding missile defense are based on “(1) the objective of deploying systems to defend the United States, our deployed troops and allies against real threats; (2) concerns about the effectiveness of MDA’s operational testing activities; and (3) the amount of funding for missile defense programs relative to other national defense priorities.”

      The amendment would allow the Department of Defense to decide which programs to cut to offset the cost, Franks said.

      That amendment helps keep alive several key programs that Franks says are vital to the nation’s defenses — primarily the boost phase of missile defense.

      The nation should concentrate on the boost phase, Franks said, because “more established nations” are developing missiles with countermeasures in the midcourse and terminal phases.

      A program like the Airborne Laser targets offensive missiles in their boost phase. ABL’s “speed of light” technology provides many opportunities to shoot at the same missile, Franks said. Even though it seems as though it is far in the future, it is essential to act, he said.

      “If we don’t do something now, China will be our master,” Franks said.

      According to Franks, opposition to missile defense is more than a simple policy debate. He suggested that Democrats have a philosophical barrier to missile defense because policies advocated by President Ronald Reagan that they opposed are turning out to have merit.

      That’s an allegation that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), who chairs the HASC strategic forces committee called “silly.”

      Franks and Cantor were joined at the press conference by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the HASC ranking Republican; Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R- Kan.), who represents the Wichita district where The Boeing Co. [BA] has ABL operations; Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the Republican conference chairman; and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), who represents the district where the Strategic Command is based.

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