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House Committee Approves East Coast Missile Interceptor Plan

Workers prepare a U.S. ground-based missile interceptor for installation at Fort Greely, Alaska. The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to establish a long-range interceptor site in the eastern United States (U.S. Missile Defense Agency photo). Workers prepare a U.S. ground-based missile interceptor for installation at Fort Greely, Alaska. The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to establish a long-range interceptor site in the eastern United States (U.S. Missile Defense Agency photo).

A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday signed off on plans to build an East Coast long-range interceptor site as protection against potential ballistic missile threats from nations such as Iran, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, May 9).

The House Armed Services Committee included the Republican-backed measure in its fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The measure would provide $100 million for the Defense Department to examine three locations that could become a third interceptor site under the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. The Pentagon would have until the close of 2015 to establish the installation.

Democrats who opposed the measure argued the final price tag could be as high as $5 billion and criticized spending more money on GMD interceptors given the technology's problematic testing track record (see GSN, March 7). 

Opponents also said the long-range ballistic missile threat of Iran and North Korea -- the principal focus of the GMD system -- remains in question. North Korea's last four long-range missile launches have been judged unsuccessful and Iran is not known to have developed a ballistic missile with a range in excess of 800 miles.

Representative John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said the measure "would be spending up to $5 billion in the next three years on a missile defense system that doesn't work."

An amendment by Garamendi to strip the measure from the defense authorization act was defeated in a 33-28 vote divided primarily by party.

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael (R-Ohio), who sponsored the measure, insisted, "We need to proceed with missile defense whether this president wants it or not."

The White House has yet to clarify its position on the matter. The Pentagon previously said its existing two GMD missile interceptor sites in Alaska and California are sufficient for protecting the mainland United States from ICBM attacks.

"Today's threats do not require an East Coast missile field, and we do not have plans" to establish one, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Gen. Charles Jacoby, said previously on Capitol Hill.

"I'm frustrated that [Republicans] have directed hundreds of millions of dollars to an extraneous missile defense system that our own military leaders have clearly stated they do not want and cannot even capitalize on at this time, even as Republicans claim the need for fiscal restraint," Strategic Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) said in released remarks.

In almost three decades, the Defense Department has poured close to $150 billion into antimissile technology and expects to spend an additional $44 billion over the next half-decade.

The House defense bill authorizes $554 billion for military spending, for the coming fiscal year, which starts on Oct. 1; that figure does not include an additional $88 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The White House only sought $551 billion in base defense spending (Burns/Cassata, Associated Press I/Buffalo News, May 9).

The Armed Services Committee voted 56-5 in favor of the entire bill in the early hours of Thursday, AP reported. It now goes to the House floor for for debate (Donna Cassata, Associated Press II/Google News, May 10).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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