House Republicans Add $550M to Pentagon Missile Defense Request

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WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee recommended adding more than $550 million to the Pentagon’s request for missile defense programs, including $140 million for an East Coast interceptor site, in their markup of the 2014 defense authorization bill June 5.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, “looks forward to supporting efforts to impose a mandate on the deployment of such a site, noting that both the Bush and Obama Administrations have supported an additional homeland missile defense site,” the Republican-controlled committee said in a press release June 3.

The bill includes an additional $140 million for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program, $188 million for cooperative programs with Israel, and $104 million to start buying 14 ground-based interceptors as part of the Obama administration’s plan to strengthen the missile shield against threats from North Korea. 

The committee also recommended adding $20 million to the budget for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning program for “data exploitation.” The Air Force requested $352 million for SBIRS next year.

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, which oversees space and missile defense programs, first marked up its version of the defense bill May 22.

One of the biggest changes in the full committee markup was money for the East Coast site. In a hearing before the strategic forces subcommittee May 8, Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) director, said he hoped to have a site recommendation in to the Department of Defense by the end of the summer, but during questioning said additional funding for a third site was not immediately necessary.

The  MDA currently has interceptors at two U.S. sites: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and Fort Greely, Alaska. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in March that the MDA would increase the number of interceptors at Fort Greely and begin looking for a third site in the United States, something Republican lawmakers have been pushing for the past year.

MDA officials are investigating three locations, two on the East Coast, which they have not specified, and another at Fort Greely. But House Republicans have said they want the Defense Department to move faster.

The money for the third interceptor site was included in an amendment to the proposed authorization bill which passed 33-27.

Meanwhile, the full committee followed the lead of the strategic forces subcommittee in urging the Defense Department to consider multiyear leases of commercial satellite capacity. 

The language appears to respond to industry complaints that the Defense Department’s typical practice of signing one-year satellite leases hamstrings their ability to plan for the future or invest in long-term infrastructure. It can also make the lease terms more expensive for the Defense Department.

The proposed legislation would also require the Defense Department to brief congressional defense committees by Oct. 1 on the U.S. satellite services contracts involving certain countries including China, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Some members were unhappy recently when Pentagon officials confirmed a leasing arrangement involving a company that is nearly 40 percent owned by the Chinese government. The lease was through a U.S. company.

Another amendment would prevent the Defense Department from funding the anti-missile program known as the Medium Extended Air Defense System. Combined, the United States, Germany and Italy have spent about $4 billion on the system but the program has frustrated legislators and the United States has opted not to procure it. The Air Force did not request funding for the project for 2014, but lawmakers were concerned funding for the program could resurface.