Democrats To Undermine Missile Defense
May 25, 8:47 PM ET, Yahoo News
The Bush administration is facing the prospect of a sharp cut by the Democratic-contolled Congress in its request for $310 million to begin development of a missile defense program designed to defend against potential "rogue state" attacks on Europe and the United States.
The latest sign of discontent was a Senate Armed Service Committee decision on Thursday to cut $85 million from the administration request. This followed efforts by the House of Representatives last week to trim the request.
The U.S. proposal has raised tensions with Russia, which sees the initiative as a security threat. But other issues seem to be behind the congressional doubts about it.
Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, has a number of concerns about the proposal. He pointed out last week that the administration is asking for a large sum of money for the initiative even though it is just beginning negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic, the designated hosts for the facilities.
He also noted that the program, while designed to counter a future threat from Iran, "does not address the existing and real threat of short- and medium-range missiles Iran has today, and which could target our forward-deployed forces, allies and friends."
In addition, he said, the interceptor proposed for deployment is a new missile that has not yet been developed.
A missile defense test was aborted Friday when a target rocket failed to fly high enough to trigger the interceptor missile, officials said. The administration insists that failure to move quickly on its plan could prove costly.
In a joint letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), and other leading House members, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said action is needed now. They noted that the intelligence community estimates contend that Iran could develop long-range missiles capable of reaching Europe and the United States by 2015.
"Defenses must be in place before that occurs; for this to be possible, construction needs to begin as early as next year," Rice and Gates said in their May 21 letter.