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Sen. Sessions: Some Lawmakers Use Anti-BMD Arguments Of Rival Nations

By | June 11, 2007

      Some members of Congress are using arguments against U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs similar to assertions of opponent countries, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

      “We ought not to be using the rhetoric of the European left or the Russians or Iranians,” said Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee. He spoke before a National Defense University Foundation breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club.

      Moves in Congress to cut funding for a U.S. proposal to install a ballistic missile shield protecting Europe are an affront to Europeans who support the plan, leaving them perplexed when they discover that they are supporting a U.S. plan only to have some American leaders oppose it, Sessions said.

      Critical U.S. lawmakers say that BMD won’t work to defeat enemy missiles, or it’s highly expensive. “How smart is that?” Sessions asked, when Europeans can read those words.

      Congress should “send the signal to Europeans that we’re serious” about pressing forward with a radar station in the Czech Republic and installation of interceptor missiles in silos at a site in Poland, he said. “We’ve had good support from the Czechs and the Poles,” he said.

      “If we undercut the [European BMD plan], it would have a very adverse effect” on U.S. relations “with Iran,” a rogue state that defiantly is producing nuclear materials and pressing ahead with missile development technology. The United States is attempting to persuade Iran to cancel those programs.

      The House cut all $160 million for the Polish silos site, while the Senate was more moderate and cut $85 million from the overall $310.4 million that President Bush requested for the next fiscal year to begin work toward creating the entire European BMD program. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, May 28, 2007, page 1, and Monday, May 14, 2007, page 1.)

      “The House version is not good,” Sessions said, while “the Senate version is acceptable.”

      Sessions told the breakfast audience, which included military and industry figures, that he wants to see robust funding for BMD programs, but realistically, “there is not going to be as much money as we would like to have” in the Missile Defense Agency budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008.

      While supporters of the ABL program “need to put some money in” to the program before the defense authorization bill gains final passage, he noted that money that lawmakers whacked out of the ABL program were shifted to some other, popular missile defense initiatives. The funding “went to some good programs,” Sessions said.

      One program doing well, he said, is the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI).

      The ABL is a high-powered laser mounted in a greatly modified Boeing 747, using a continuous laser beam to destroy an enemy missile in its vulnerable period just after it lifts off. The KEI is the other so-called “boost phase” program, using a missile warhead to intercept the enemy missile just after launch, which has been likened to a bullet hitting a bullet.

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