House and Senate appropriations conferees wrapped up work on a 2008 defense spending bill that checks Pentagon plans for next-generation satellite programs as well as for deploying missile interceptors in Europe.

The bill, which for the most part favors systems ready or almost ready for deployment over more futuristic ones,

awaits the signature of U.S. President George W. Bush following its Nov. 8 passage by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The $459.3 billion bill cleared the House by a vote of 400 to 15 and was agreed to in the Senate by a voice vote.

The bill tracks with the House and Senate recommendations in previous versions of the legislation to cut $85 million from the White House’s $310 million request to begin laying the groundwork for proposed missile defense installations in Europe.

Congress did not fully fund the project because Poland has not yet agreed to host U.S. ground-based interceptor missiles, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, said at a Nov. 6 press conference. The bill does provide money for long-lead interceptor equipment and a missile-tracking radar site in the Czech Republic.

More money for the Poland site could be requested by the president in a supplemental bill provided that nation comes to agreement on hosting the interceptors, said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.

An exception to the spending bill’s trend of putting the brakes on future-generation systems was the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), a high-speed missile interceptor being developed by a Northrop Grumman-led team that could one day replace the boosters for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, now being deployed.

House and Senate appropriators agreed to set funding for the KEI at $342.5 million, $115 million more than the White House requested.

The House voted in September to increase funding for the KEI to $372.9 million, but the companion bill in the Senate recommended providing just $197.5 million.

This bill funds the Airborne Laser, a boost-phase missile defense system, at $513.8 million; the Senate had recommended fully funding the program at $548.8 million, and the House voted to cut that amount by $50 million. The modified 747 aircraft outfitted with a high-energy laser

is scheduled to perform its first missile shoot-down test in 2009.

Airborne Laser prime contractor

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis had said the test could have been delayed by two years if appropriators followed the recommendations of the House and Senate armed services committees to cut the request by $200 million or

$250 million, respectively.

The U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite communications system will get $728.2 million for 2008, which includes $125 million more than requested to fund a fourth satellite in the series. The conference report also encourages the Air Force to include an option for

a fifth satellite under the same contract to get the best pricing.

Conferees cut $150 million from the request for the Transformational Satellite Communications (T-Sat) system, the Air Force’s follow-on

to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency system. The House version of the bill had fully funded the Pentagon’s $963.6 million request for the laser-linked satellite system, but the Senate had recommended trimming $200 million. In the report accompanying its version of the bill, the Senate said the cut was

meant to ensure that the next-generation communications system will remain “fiscally and technically executable.”


House and Senate agreed that fully funding the president’s $587.2 million request for the GPS 3 satellite navigation system would be premature

given the procurement and launch schedules of the predecessor systems, GPS 2R-M and GPS 2-F. They agreed to cut the amount by $100 million, splitting the difference between the $50 million cut by the House and the $150 million cut by the Senate.