Nearly $500 Million Cut From Bush Missile Defense Request

Wade Boese

Congress trimmed roughly $500 million from President George W. Bush’s nearly $8.3 billion request for U.S. missile defense efforts in the fiscal year 2002 defense appropriations act, which it passed overwhelmingly December 20. Bush signed the bill January 10, appropriating $317 billion for the Pentagon, excluding emergency supplemental funding.

Congress allocated $100 million for terminating the Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense program (see p. 32) and parceled out the rest of the administration’s requested $388 million for the system to other programs. The Pentagon’s other sea-based program, Navy Theater Wide, now known as the sea-based midcourse segment, saw its requested $596 million budget reduced by $120 million.

The Pentagon’s funding requests for two laser programs aimed at intercepting missiles shortly after their launch shared different fates. Congress added $73.5 million to the Airborne Laser, raising its funding to $483.5 million, but cut $120 million from the Space Based Laser, leaving it with $50 million.

Congress also treated differently the Pentagon’s proposed budgets for two ground-based systems designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The Theater High-Altitude Area Defense had its funding request shaved by $50 million to $872 million, while the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) system received an additional $105 million, increasing its total to $866 million for procurement and research and development.

The Space-Based Infrared System-low (SBIRS-low), a planned system of about 24 satellites for tracking ballistic missile flights, barely escaped cancellation. Of the Pentagon’s $385 million request, Congress did not explicitly allocate any funds for the system, but it approved $250 million for satellite sensor technologies and gave the secretary of defense the discretion to use it for SBIRS-low. Last November, the House Committee on Appropriations recommended completely denying the program funding, saying it has “markedly negative trends in cost, schedule, and performance estimates.”

Pentagon plans call for SBIRS-low to be complemented by another system called SBIRS-high, which will feature four satellites that provide early warning of ballistic missile launches. Congress also found fault with this system, cutting nearly $94 million dedicated for program procurement activities but adding $40 million to a $405 million request for research and development.

Congress left intact more than $3.2 billion in requested funding for the strategic ground-based midcourse defense, including development of a new missile defense “test bed,” which the Pentagon will build by adding a new test site in Alaska. (See ACT, July/August 2001.) The Pentagon aims to have the test bed ready for testing as early as 2004.