Gates Counters Criticism of Missile Defense Spending Reduction

The Obama administration's missile defense budget includes adequate funding to strengthen countermeasures against long-range missiles despite significant spending reductions, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday (see GSN, May 14).

The Defense Department's fiscal 2010 budget request would reduce funding for the the Missile Defense Agency by $1.2 billion, eliminate the Multiple Kill Vehicle and Kinetic Energy Interceptor programs, and halt plans for a second aircraft carrying Airborne Laser technology. However, the plan includes $700 million in new funds for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system and the Standard Missile 3 program.

While the United States has made "great technological progress on missile defense" in the past 20 years, Washington must reconcile competing demands to develop new missile defense capabilities and to acquire equipment for established programs, Gates said in testimony before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, according to Reuters.

Gates' testimony occurred in the day that Iran announced the successful flight of a new missile (see related GSN story, today). Some lawmakers cited the test-launch in questioning the budget cut.

The existing Pentagon budget includes money to begin fielding missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic -- which would be developed with Iran in mind -- if President Barack Obama chooses to pursue the missile shield plan formulated by his predecessor, Gates said.

Russia has long opposed the shield, but Gates said Washington has "great interest" in cooperating with Moscow on the missile shield.

"The reality is that radars located in Russia supplementing those in the Czech Republic would give additional capability to the sites in Europe," he said.

"We are also looking at the full range of technological solutions, are there better ways to do this, and importantly, can we do this in a cooperative manner with Russia," Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy told reporters separately (Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters I, May 20).

Gates said the shield's fate could hinge on Russia's willingness to participate in the plan and the receptivity of the original two host nations, the Associated Press reported. Poland and the Czech Republic agreed to house the defenses last year, but the plan has continued to fuel internal controversy (Associated Press/Google News, May 20).

A temporary Czech administration indicated it would not submit the radar hosting agreement for parliamentary ratification before it cedes power in October, the Czech News Agency reported yesterday.

The previous administration, which completed the radar deal, was forced from power following a no-confidence vote by lawmakers.

"The radar will not be on the agenda of this government," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said. "Only the next government to be formed on the basis of parliamentary elections will deal with missile defense" (Czech News Agency, May 20).

Meanwhile, Russia indicated today it could field short-range Iskander missiles near Poland if that nation accepted any Patriot missile defenses from the United States, Reuters reported today. Warsaw said recently it expected to house Patriot batteries on a temporary-to-permanent basis even if the missile shield plan falls through (see GSN, May 18).

"Patriot systems, if they are deployed, will cover future work on installing a unit of the U.S. strategic air defense system with interceptor missiles in Poland," a member of the Russian general staff told Interfax. In response, Moscow could "deploy the tactical Iskander missile in the Kaliningrad region" neighboring Poland, the official said (Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters II, May 21).

May 21, 2009
About

The Obama administration's missile defense budget includes adequate funding to strengthen countermeasures against long-range missiles despite significant spending reductions, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday (see GSN, May 14).