Missile Defense Budget Funds ABL

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The Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Airborne Laser (ABL) for 2008, likely keeping the program on track for a critical test in 2009 in which the modified Boeing 747 aircraft will attempt to shoot down a target missile.

The House trimmed $50 million from the White House’s $548.8 million request for the futuristic weapon system in its version of the 2008 defense appropriations bill.

The House and Senate armed services committees recommended slashing $250 million and $200 million, respectively, from the ABL request, amounts Greg Hyslop, ABL program manager at Boeing, said would push the intercept test back two years. During a Sept. 4 ABL teleconference with reporters – the Senate marked up its version of the defense appropriations bill Sept. 12 – Hyslop said a $50 million cut was unlikely to delay the test.

Appropriations committees typically are expected to follow the guidance of the armed services committees when it comes to funding programs, but do not always do so.

Meanwhile, the Senate appropriators appear at odds with their House counterparts on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a high-speed weapon designed to strike attacking missiles in their boost or midcourse phase of flight. Currently the Missile Defense Agency has no concrete plans to deploy the system. The Senate panel cut $30 million from the president’s $227.5 million request for the effort, whereas the House appropriators added $145.4 million.