House Armed Services Committee Takes a Whack at Missile Defense

Washington, D.C. — Public interest advocacy organizations critical of missile defense programs today hailed the work of Republicans and Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee who cut the Bush Administration's request for national missile defense and space weapons research in the absence of proof that the system works.

Yesterday, the House Armed Services Committee completed its markup of the Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization bill. In it were cuts to missile defense programs, both with near- and long-term technologies, including a cut of $184 million from the Administration request and fencing of an additional $200 million. It also killed funds for a third interceptor site in Europe (see full list below).

Philip E. Coyle, former assistant secretary of defense and director of Operational Test & Evaluation at the Pentagon, argued: "Republicans and Democrats agree that it makes no sense to waste money on a missile defense without being sure it works as advertised."

"The Committee showed that supporting and protecting our troops is their priority, not an ineffective, scarecrow missile defense," Coyle added. "Missile defense doesn't work against rocket propelled grenades, car bombs and improvised explosive devices — the threats that are killing and maiming thousands of U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq."

By blocking funding for programs that could have anti-satellite capabilities and requesting a complete report on the need and consequences of space-based weapons, the committee reinforced its skepticism about weaponizing space.

Dr. Laura Grego, staff scientist with the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, commended the Committee: "The Committee has wisely restricted space-based interceptors and advanced laser technology that could lead to war in space and called for understanding the implications of going forward."

"The United States will be the big loser if we go forward with space weapons," concluded Grego.

Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, Jr., U.S. Army (Ret.), a consultant with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, suggested: "It simply makes sense to cut back on spending for the Ground Based Mid-course Missile Defense system when programs to counter more urgent and more likely threats are under-funded."

"Republicans and Democrats are finally exercising their oversight responsibilities by forcing MDA to slow down and shift its efforts away from the more pie-in-the-sky technologies," Gard added.

House Armed Services Committee actions on missile defense and space issues:

  • The Missile Defense Agency's budget request was shrunk by $183.5 million.
  • The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, whose interceptors are currently being fielded in Alaska and California, has $200 million fenced until the Department of Defense (DOD) certifies that the program has successfully hit a target on two separate occasions. Such tests are planned in 2006.
  • The Committee also cut all funding – $55.8 million – for a third interceptor site in Europe.
  • The Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program was cut by $65 million. The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program was cut by $100 million. Both programs have long-lead technologies that at best will not be ready for fielding for over a decade.
  • The High Altitude Airship (HAA) program was reduced by $40.7 million.
  • Some missile defense programs received increased funding: ground based mid course system received an extra $20 million for testing and operation resources; the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system received an extra $40 million ($20 million of which is for new interceptors); the Army received an additional $140 million for transitioning its Patriot Advanced Capabilities (PAC)-2 systems to the PAC-3 configuration.
  • The committee directed that technologies for the Advanced Optics and Laser Technologies project development cannot be used for the development of laser space technologies that could be used to target satellites.
  • Money cannot be used for a space-based missile defense interceptor until a report has been submitted to Congress detailing the purposes of such a program, its estimated costs, potential vulnerabilities and international consequences.