The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) rejected a Democrat-led attempt May 3 to incorporate language into the House version of the 2007 defense authorization legislation that would have diverted funding from national missile defense to pay for alternative fuel infrastructure for the military.
The issue is not dead yet, though, because the sponsor of that amendment and a senior House Democrat, said in a May 4 news release they plan to fight to add that language to the bill once it reaches the House floor.
The amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would have taken $63 million requested by the Missile Defense Agency to pay for the 41st through 50th interceptors for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System, and used it to pay for research on advanced power technologies and alternative fuel infrastructure at military bases.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) currently maintains silos for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System at Fort Greely in Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The interceptors in question were intended for placement at a third site, which MDA officials have said would likely be located in Europe.
The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee already had cut $55.8 million that MDA requested for the third site in 2007, and used that money to fund upgrades to the Patriot Advanced Capability -2 missile interceptors, according to a congressional aide.
The remaining portion of MDA’s $118 million request for the third site in 2007 would have covered the interceptors, which Udall argued would be unnecessary without a site for their deployment.
The amendment drew support from Democratic members like Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, who said that finding alternative energy sources was an immediate need. Skelton said that the $63 million was a relatively small portion of MDA budget request of $9.3 billion, and said that taking it away from the agency would have little impact on the deployment of a national missile defense shield.
However, Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, argued that Udall’s amendment could do “great harm to the security of this country.”
Cutting funds for the 41st through 50th interceptors could cause an expensive production break on the rockets that could have long-term consequences, Everett said. Second- and third-tier suppliers, which Everett said build the bulk of the components for the interceptors, could be forced to leave the missile defense market or shut down entirely, he said.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), another member of the strategic forces subcommittee, noted that the subcommittee had already reduced MDA’s budget request by more than $180 million, and said that further cuts would be too disruptive.
Despite the partisan breakdown of the debate on Udall’s amendment, Republicans and Democrats said they cooperated relatively well with each other as they crafted the bill.
The strategic forces subcommittee accepted without debate an amendment offered by Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) during its April 26 markup session that requires MDA to submit a lengthy report to Congress on issues related to space-based missile interceptors before the agency begins testing those systems.
The subcommittee also struck funding requested by the U.S. Air Force for laser technology experiments that could have had application for anti-satellite weapons after Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) raised concern about that project.