Lieberman, Sessions Fight for Missile Defense Funding
5:01 PM, Oct 5, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
When Under Secretary of Defense MichÃ¨le Flournoy testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 24, she said that in order for Secretary Gates to support the new missile defense architecture in Europe, he had to be reassured that "we are going to continue the development of the two-stage GBI [ground-based interceptor] as a technological hedge" in case the SM-3 family of interceptors face setbacks or the Iranian ICBM threat develops sooner than expected.
Despite the administration's support for continued development and testing of the two-stage GBI, the chairman's mark of the FY10 defense appropriations bill reduces funding for testing of the two-stage GBI by $151 million, which would risk postponing or cancelling a pair of two-stage missile tests. These tests were intended to both prove out the two-stage version of the GBI, and support modernization of the three-stage GBIs that are currently deployed in California and Alaska.
Senators Lieberman and Sessions have proposed an amendment that would allow the Missile Defense Agency to use up to $151 million of funds provided for in the FY09 or FY10 defense appropriations acts for a long-range missile defense system in Europe to support the continued development or testing of the two-stage GBI program. It would also fence funding for the two-stage program that the Secretary of Defense supports, and require a report detailing specific options when Congress addresses this issue in the coming year.
Senator Obama attacked missile defense as an "unproven technology," and President Obama killed the European site for the system on the grounds that his "new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 missile defense program." And now Democrats are trying to make sure those systems stay unproven by cutting funding for testing.
On Thursday, Senators Lieberman and Sessions took the floor to argue for their amendment restoring that funding.
Senate sources tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD that debate on the amendment will resume Tuesday.