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Pentagon Said to Eye $4.5 Billion Plus-Up for Missile Defense

The Pentagon intends to seek an extra $4.5 billion from Congress for missile-defense projects over a five-year period, Reuters reports.

The Defense Department plans to seek the additional funding in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal, sources on Capitol Hill and elsewhere told the wire service. The new budget blueprint is expected to be filed on March 4.

Almost $1 billion of the sought-after funding would be used to purchase a new antimissile radar for installation in Alaska. The fiscal 2014 Defense Authorization Act ordered the Pentagon to deploy an additional X-band radar system that would focus on protecting the United States from a possible long-range missile attack by North Korea.

An extra $560 million would be requested to improve the Ground Based Interceptor, which had another in a series of unsuccessful test intercepts last summer. The interceptor is part of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system -- the principal homeland net against any possible strategic-missile strikes fired by North Korea or Iran.

While the Pentagon request for more missile-defense funds is anticipated to receive cross-aisle support, it also could elicit a backlash from some lawmakers who view the GBI missile and its troubled front-end "kill vehicle" as a money pit. In the last 20 years, billions of dollars have been spent on improving the system but its track-record of successful missile intercepts has only worsened; it now stands at just 50 percent.

"We need a new interceptor that actually works," an unnamed congressional source told Reuters.

Riki Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said improving the Ground Based Interceptor and its kill vehicle should be a priority, in light of Pentagon plans to procure 14 more of the missiles in 2017 for placement in Alaska.

"We need to have this thing as soon as possible," he said.

Ellison predicted that some lawmakers would be opposed to acquiring any more Ground Based Interceptors that carry present versions of the kinetic kill vehicle, given the technology's uneven testing record.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency this summer plans to test whether repairs to one of the versions of the kill vehicle -- the "CE-2" -- have been successful, agency spokesman Rick Lehner told the news service.

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