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House-Senate Defense Bill Seeks New Radar Against N. Korea Threat

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

A semi-submersible, self-propelled X-band radar that provides ballistic missile-tracking information is pictured in this undated photo. House-Senate conference legislation would require the U.S. military to buy an additional radar system to patrol for possible long-range missile attacks by North Korea (U.S. Navy photo). A semi-submersible, self-propelled X-band radar that provides ballistic missile-tracking information is pictured in this undated photo. House-Senate conference legislation would require the U.S. military to buy an additional radar system to patrol for possible long-range missile attacks by North Korea (U.S. Navy photo).

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate and House negotiators on Monday announced they had hammered out bipartisan legislation that would require the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency to field a new radar to detect any long-range missiles that North Korea may fire against the United States.

The two chambers agreed to a fiscal 2014 defense authorization conference bill that identifies $30 million in additional funds to initiate deployment.

The U.S. military presently fields an early-warning radar at a base in northern Japan and is planning on deploying a second, long-range sensor within the year at another site in the East Asian country. The moves are part of an allied initiative to boost the early detection and monitoring of possible North Korean missile launches.

The increase for the additional radar is among more than $350 million in extra funds the House and Senate lawmakers have agreed to apply to missile defense programs in the joint bill, which could be sent to the White House by the end of this week.

The Defense Department policy-setting legislation contains $607 billion in authorized funding, including $9.5 billion for missile defense activities -- a $358 million boost over what the Pentagon had requested for the year, according to a press release from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin's (D-Mich.) office.

Both chambers are suspending normal rules of order and likely foregoing votes on controversial amendments such as more sanctions on Iran in a bid to get the bill to President Obama for signing before the end of December, according to The Hill newspaper.

The House is scheduled to break for its holiday recess on Friday and the Senate could adjourn a week after that. The deal reached by congressional negotiators does away with the need for a bicameral conference report, which means the Senate only has to vote on the legislation once, Politico reported. The House already passed its version of the bill.

For missile defense, the bill includes a set-aside of an additional $80 million to fix a technology malfunction that caused a high-profile July test of the country's Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to fail. The missile intercept failed when the kinetic kill vehicle of the Ground Based Interceptor fired in the test did not properly separate from its rocket booster.

The bill also includes $80 million for work on an "enhanced kill vehicle and discrimination capabilities" for the GMD system, which is the country's principal defense against possible long-range ballistic missile attacks by North Korea and Iran. The difficulty that GMD sensors have in distinguishing between actual warheads and decoys has repeatedly been raised by technical experts as a serious flaw with the system.

Other missile defense and nuclear arsenal-related provisions in the legislation include:

-- A requirement that the Pentagon "ensure the capability" of fielding more sensors on the U.S. East Coast to guard against possible intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by Iran.

-- A prohibition on using any U.S. funds to integrate a Chinese antimissile technology with U.S. missile defense systems. The measure apparently is aimed at deterring Turkey from purchasing a Chinese system that Ankara wants to connect to the evolving NATO missile shield. The alliance antimissile network is being built largely with U.S. technology.

-- A mandate that the Defense Department brief Congress on any environmental assessments of the impact of a potential third interceptor site under the GMD system. The measure authorizes $20 million for the continued study and planning of the possible complex.

-- An increase of $173 million above the Pentagon's $96 million request for joint U.S.-Israeli antimissile activities, which include nearly $34 million for work on the developmental long-range Arrow 3 missile interceptor.

-- An authorization of $543 million -- a boost of $40 million over the Obama administration request -- for the controversial effort to build the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.

-- The establishment of a "Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Council" inside the Pentagon that would focus on updating and better coordinating senior leaders' communications systems.

-- A sense of the Congress that the effects of the implementation of the New START arms control accord with Russia should be distributed as evenly as possible among the country's ICBM wings.

-- The authorization of work on removing the nuclear role of some of the Air Force's B-52H bombers, once the Pentagon has provided its plans for bringing the country's strategic nuclear arsenal into compliance with New START.

-- A requirement that the Energy Department certify to Congress that its nuclear-weapon sites holding sensitive atomic materials meet department standards for physical security.

-- A sense of the Congress that any potential new bilateral arms control reductions with Russia be undertaken "through a mutually negotiated agreement, be verifiable, take into account tactical nuclear weapons, and be subject to Senate advice and consent."

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