Missile Defense Programs Face Budget Cuts

Some U.S. missile defense programs appear likely to face budget cuts in a Defense Department spending program set to be announced today, the New York Times reported (see GSN, April 1).

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is set to unveil the changes this afternoon, is known to favor funding for technology to use against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq over sophisticated equipment aimed at potential adversaries such as China and Russia, according to the Times.

“I think you will see that he is attempting to reshape and rebalance the budget so that we are not so heavily weighted to preparing to fight conventional conflicts against near peer countries that may or may not take place, and instead spend more of the money to fight and win irregular conflicts like we are in now,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week.

Missile defense programs are likely to face cuts of $1 billion to $2 billion, after topping out at $10 billion annually under the Bush administration. The Airborne Laser program, intended to place missile-destroying weapons on Boeing 747s, could be on the chopping block, while Ground-based Midcourse Defense could see funding reductions, industry officials said (Christopher Drew, New York Times, April 4).

However, missile defense proponents pointed to North Korea's rocket launch yesterday to illustrate the need for the programs, Reuters reported (see related GSN story, today).

"A new security era has begun," said Riki Ellison, head of the industry-backed Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. He called on Gates to rethink cutbacks in order "to protect the millions of American lives that will be at risk."

"The firing of this missile illustrates the critical role these systems play in our nation's defense," said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). "In light of the actions taken by North Korea, now is not the time to make cuts to these essential programs."

Alaska houses one of two U.S. land-based missile interceptors sites; its economy reaped more than $246 million from the system in 2007, according to one study (Jim Wolf, Reuters, April 5).

April 6, 2009
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Some U.S. missile defense programs appear likely to face budget cuts in a Defense Department spending program set to be announced today, the New York Times reported (see GSN, April 1).