Bill Would Reverse Missile Defense Cutbacks in Alaska

New legislation might turn around the Obama administration's efforts to scale back a missile defense project in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday (see GSN, June 17).

The U.S. Defense Department, looking to cut $1.2 billion in the missile defense budget, has decided against deploying another 14 missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska. It would instead use the weapons for testing or as backups for the 30 interceptors set for fielding in Alaska and California.

However, Alaska's senators have been pushing hard to stay the Pentagon's hand and see the 14 silos through to completion.

The defense authorization bill for fiscal 2010 calls for finishing construction of half of the 14 silos while shuttering six older silos, according to Lindsay Young, military legislative assistant for Democratic Senator Mark Begich.

The Senate Armed Services Committee last week finished its markup of the legislation, which is scheduled for a public filing following the congressional Fourth of July break.

"The agreement we reached will ensure that Alaska continues to serve as America's front lines of defense against rogue nations," Begich said. "This will allow the (Defense) Department to build a more modernized and sophisticated capability than currently exists there today."

Begich is expected to request $82 million for the silo project, Young said. That money would have to be included in defense funding legislation that must pass through the Senate Appropriations Committee. Alaska's other senator, Lisa Murkowski (R), is a member of that panel.

Fort Greely now hosts 16 missile interceptors that could be used against missiles fired by a nation such as North Korea, the Daily News reported (see GSN, June 25). Another seven are undergoing planned maintenance or improvements, one was removed for use as a backup weapon and an unspecified number -- possibly two -- were pulled for "unscheduled maintenance."

A total of four interceptors are to be deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (Richard Mauer, Anchorage Daily News, June 27).

June 29, 2009
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New legislation might turn around the Obama administration's efforts to scale back a missile defense project in Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday (see GSN, June 17).