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White House Seeks Cut in Ballistic Missile Defense Spending

The White House on Monday sought to curb federal spending on ballistic missile defense in accordance with broader efforts to rein in massive government deficits, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 22, 2011).

The Obama administration has proposed spending $9.7 billion for missile defense activities in fiscal 2013, which begins on Oct. 1. That would represent a $700 million, or 6.7 percent, cut from the current fiscal cycle.  Total antimissile allocations for the next five budget cycles would  be $47.4 billion.

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said the budget request would safeguard already planned projects for the United States' Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which fields interceptors in California and Alaska intended to protect the country from potential long-range ballistic missile attacks. Spending levels would also hold mostly steady for administration plans to establish a missile shield in Europe.

Antimissile operations that would take a hit under the budget include next-generation Sea-Based X-band radar, which would only receive sufficient funding for a program of  "limited test support." That would cut annual costs by $500 million.

"It's very expensive to keep and operate, and we thought we could get adequate data for the testing that we're doing without that radar,"  acting Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall told journalists

Funding for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system would also be reduced (see GSN, Nov. 9, 2011). The proposal calls for the number of planned THAAD interceptors to be slashed from 333 to 180 for a total budget savings of $1.8 billion from fiscal 2013 through fiscal 2017.

The Pentagon wants to see U.S. regional partners step up to shoulder more of the financial burden of missile defense. "There could be other Middle Eastern countries that we hope will either step up themselves or we will have to slow down some of our actions to improve their missile defenses," Hale said (Jim Wolf, Reuters, Feb. 13).

The White House is seeking $99.8 million for Israeli missile defense assistance, Ynetnews reported. That is $6.3 million less than the amount requested by Obama for this budget year, though Congress ultimately upped the allocation to Israel to $216 million (see GSN, Jan. 5).

If Congress does not overrule the Obama administration again, the Israeli Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense initiative and the Arrow System Improvement Program would both be impacted by the cuts in aid (Yitzhak Benhorin, Ynetnews.com, Feb. 14).

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which manages the bulk of the Pentagon's antimissile operations, would receive $7.6 billion under the Obama budget plan (U.S. Missile Defense Agency release, Feb. 13).



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