Pentagon Gets $416 Billion From Congress

Wade Boese

President George W. Bush Aug. 5 signed into law the fiscal year 2005 Defense Appropriations Act granting the Pentagon $416 billion in new funding.

The spending measure provides $121 billion for the Pentagon to keep up its existing military hardware and software, $77 billion to buy additional weapons, and $70 billion to explore new arms and technologies. It also allocates $103 billion to pay and house U.S. troops.

Lawmakers, who overwhelmingly approved the appropriations bill July 22, allotted an additional $25 billion in emergency funding for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Early this year, the Bush administration said it did not plan to seek extra money for those two missions, but it bowed to congressional pressure to do so.

Although some legislators tried to boost support for the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program to help secure and dispose of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, Congress only matched the administration’s $409 million request.

Top-funded weapons programs included the Joint Strike Fighter ($4.4 billion for development), F-22 Raptor ($3.6 billion for two dozen aircraft), F/A-18E/F Super Hornet ($2.9 billion for 42 jets), and the Army’s Future Combat System ($2.9 billion). In addition, a total of $11 billion was meted out to building new naval vessels.

Still, ballistic missile defense efforts received the most money: $10 billion.

The largest portion of the missile defense pot, $3.4 billion, will go toward the ground-based midcourse missile defense, the first elements of which the Pentagon is now deploying to counter long-range ballistic missiles. In July the Pentagon put the booster of the system’s first interceptor into a missile silo at Fort Greely, a remote Alaskan military base. The aim is to field six interceptors there by early next year for possible emergency use and for testing purposes, although no plans exist to test-fire the interceptors from the base.

How the Pentagon intends to fund and operate the new system is of some concern to Congress. Legislators demanded that the secretary of defense submit a report by early February detailing how the Department of Defense plans to “provide adequate resources necessary for the operation and maintenance…and manning” of the defense.

The Aegis ballistic missile defense program, which is a sea-based system scheduled for deployment in conjunction with the ground-based midcourse defense, was awarded $1.1 billion. Pentagon plans originally envisioned arming three ships with up to a total of 20 interceptors by the end of 2005, but problems with the interceptor’s component that seeks out and collides with an enemy warhead has led the Pentagon to scale down those plans by half. The sea-based interceptors are intended to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

A third missile defense system that received substantial funding ($833 million) was the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). Intended to destroy enemy warheads as they near the end of their flight, THAAD has been in redesign since 1999 and is scheduled to resume flight testing as early as this winter. The system’s primary capability is against shorter-range missiles, but there is some speculation that it could also protect against longer-range missiles.

Lawmakers also backed two troubled missile defense programs. They provided $599 million—an increase of $91 million over the Pentagon’s request—to the Space-Based Infrared System-high program, a satellite constellation for detecting ballistic missile launches worldwide that is now being overhauled because of its many problems.

Congress also added an extra $1.5 million to the Pentagon’s $474 million request for the Airborne Laser. Administration officials first projected that the first of the large aircraft armed with a laser to shoot down missiles would be ready by 2004, but that date has slipped until at least 2006.

The Pentagon did not get all of the missile defense funding it sought. Congress cut 80 percent of a $35 million request to begin preparing ground-based interceptors for a potential base outside the United States because the Pentagon has yet to choose a site. It is currently exploring locations in central Europe. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

Another program that did not fare so well was the Pentagon’s new effort to build mobile land- and ship-based interceptors to destroy enemy missiles within the first minutes of their flights, a period known as the boost phase. Congress cut $163 million from the administration’s original $511 million request.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency estimates that it will cost approximately $8 billion to develop and build its new boost-phase interceptors for initial deployment by 2010. However, the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a July study estimating that, over a 20-year period, boost-phase systems, including possible space-based interceptors, could cost between $16 billion and $224 billion. The CBO study also reported that the potential effectiveness of boost-phase systems would depend greatly on the type of enemy missile launched and the size of the country firing the missile. The faster the missile and the larger the country’s territory, the less likely an intercept could take place, the study concluded. A study by the American Physical Society arrived at a similar assessment last year. (See ACT, October 2003.)

Congress also imposed constraints on a joint effort by the Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to investigate unpowered systems, known as common aero vehicles (CAVs), capable of being released from a missile in space and then gliding and maneuvering at hypersonic speeds to drop munitions against targets on earth.

Lawmakers ordered that research only be conducted into systems that would be able to deploy satellites, not weapons. “None of the funds provided in this Act may be used to develop, integrate, or test a CAV variant that includes any nuclear or conventional weapon,” legislators wrote in a July 20 document explaining their actions.

They further prohibited research into CAVs that could be paired with intercontinental or submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Congress indicated that it has concerns about how to reassure other countries, presumably China and Russia, that the future launch of a CAV system is not an attack directed at them. “The conferees are concerned that safeguards are not in place to guarantee that nations possessing nuclear weapons capabilities would not misinterpret the intent or use of the FALCON/CAV programs,” the July 20 document stated. FALCON stands for Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States.