Skip to comments.Missile Defense Funding Reaches Compromise Point
Posted on 05/21/2007 10:17:16 AM PDT by Paul Ross
Missile Defense Funding Reaches Compromise Point
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 14, 2007
Was last week's congressional compromise on U.S. ballistic missile defense funding a disastrous defeat for the program, or was it a resounding victory for ensuring the survival and continued funding of key programs? Was it a bitter, short-sighted bipartisan fight of the kind that gives Congress a bad name? Or was it a triumph for constructive bipartisanship that forged a new and likely lasting consensus for the visionary program between Republicans and Democrats?
On one hand, the program slashed overall BMD funding by more than three quarters of a billion. After six years and three Republican-controlled Congresses had given the Bush administration and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency pretty much whatever they wanted on BMD, this was certainly a sign of changing times on Capitol Hill.
Funding on the Airborne Laser program was significantly cut. So was funding for the building of a a BMD interceptor based in Poland, although funding to build an advanced tracking radar installation in the Czech Republic will still go through, and the move to put funding for the Polish BMS deployment on hold will likely be re-examined next year. The move saves $160 million.
The Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives similarly took a large cut out of the development budget for the Airborne Laser, but not as big as originally intended.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, originally approved a mark-up to cut $400 million out of the $517 million requested for the development of the visionary but controversial program. If that cut had gone through, it would have been curtains for the ABL.
But the laser's many Republican champions on Capitol Hill rallied to its defense and so did the three giant defense contracting corporations most involved in its development. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman mounted a massive PR campaign arguing the case for the program's continued promise and recent development progress. Tauscher compromised and agreed to restore $150 million to the ABL to allow it to carry out its much anticipated shoot-down test.
In all, the MDA wanted $550 million for ABL development in the 2008 defense appropriations bill. Now it will have to settle for $300 million.
Tauscher, however, held the line in winning a subcommittee vote to maintain her overall $764 million cuts in the BMD budget. And she defeated a proposal in the subcommittee from Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a strong champion of BMD, to boost the ABL development budget by $100 million transferred from other programs.
Tauscher did not oppose BMD on principle, and she even added funding to some programs that are already in the advanced development stage or that have already been deployed. But she focused on slashing funds from more speculative, long-term programs that showed far less prospects of delivering operational BMD systems in the foreseeable future.
Tauscher and her subcommittee also used their ax to cut $200 million from the Alternate Infrared Satellite System and $150 million from the Global Positioning Systems III program. But it added $100 million in funding to the long-delayed and over-budget Space-Based Infrared Systems, or SBIRS-High program, and nearly a quarter of a billion additional dollars for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite and other space command-and-control programs.
Republicans on Capitol Hill were scathing in their denunciations of the cuts. But some long-time advocates of BMD welcomed the results of the mark-up process as the best that could be hoped for in the circumstances.
"We congratulate and applaud the modifications led by Chairwoman Rep. Ellen Tauscher, as well as the efforts lead by Rep. Rick Larson, D-Wash. and Rep. Franks to support those two key modifications," the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said in a statement Thursday. "We believe that this overall mark is an important statement as it addresses investment in future systems that are needed along with the priority of near-term deployment of the current systems."
The MDAA tacitly acknowledged the political realities of a federal budget deficit and the Democrats' control of both houses of Congress since last November's midterm elections. "Though MDAA does not agree with taking funding from already existing programs and would much prefer to get those reprioritized funds added back on to the authorizing budget, we understand the new dynamics of a changed Congress," the advocacy group said.
The significance of last week's horse-trading and compromises on BMD are of the greatest importance. Two of them stand-out: The new Democratic Congress is not going to gut BMD but is committing itself to funding it and supporting it, albeit with much more aggressive oversight than its predecessor Congresses did. And the makings of a new bipartisan consensus to support BMD are now in place on Capitol Hill.
The BMD fund compromise
The wheeling and dealing over the future of ballistic missile defense funding on Capitol Hill last week was widely and excellently reported by specialist publications, but was almost ignored in the mainstream U.S. media.
In one sense, this is understandable. Markups of parts of major appropriations, or funding bills in the subcommittees of major committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, are about as arcane as the legislative process gets. The average reader or viewer is expected to turn glassy-eyed at the very mention of them.
Also, markups in congressional subcommittees are not the last word in the legislative process, to put it mildly. Even when the House finally votes a bill through, it can subject to any kind of revision in the reconciliation conference that must be held to bring the wording of different versions of legislation on the same topic produced by the House and the Senate into agreement.
Even then, President George W. Bush may veto the legislation. And as the recent battle between the Democratic-controlled 110th Congress and the Republican president over funding for the Iraq war showed, Bush is prepared to veto any legislation on national security issues that contains elements he adamantly opposes. And the narrow Democratic majority in the House and wafer-thin one in the Senate are in no position at this point to provide the two-thirds majorities needed in both chambers to override any veto.
Nevertheless, the markups that resulted from last week's horse-trading and compromises on BMD are of the greatest importance. They point to new political equations in Washington that will govern the continued development of ballistic missile defense.
First, despite the $764 million that was cut from ballistic missile defense spending and related military space and high-tech programs, the outcome was basically good news for BMD. The cuts amount to less than 8.6 percent of the total BMD budget for Fiscal Year 2008, originally presented to Congress by the Bush administration at $8.9 billion.
Funding for some BMD programs such as the U.S. Army's tried and tested Patriot PAC-3 system and the U.S. Navy's Aegis system that uses Standard Missile 3s was actually increased.
Indeed, the methodology with which Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., approached the markup process either paralleled or reflected the kind of prioritizing that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency has itself been making in recent years under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering III. Obering has emphasized focusing resources on the programs that offer the greatest likelihood of becoming operational in the foreseeable future and putting the most visionary, long-term programs that may not deliver effective defense systems for many years on the back burner. The MDA obviously would prefer to see the cuts in funding it has sustained eliminated; Tauscher and the majority on her subcommittee obviously tried in general to apply a similar methodology.
Republicans on the subcommittee, sensing a juicy and potentially popular issue, disputed all the cuts and forced the Democrats to go on the record in vote upholding them. But what is most significant about the markup process is that the Democrats, spearheaded by Tauscher, have fulfilled the pledge given last year by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. They are not trying to gut or destroy the national missile defense, or NMD, program but are trying to work constructively with it.
Ironically, this "me-too" policy on BMD being followed by the Democrats may turn out to be good news for the program in the long run. As we have documented over the past two years in these columns, repeated Government Accountability Office reports have cited huge cost overruns and delays in many ambitious BMD programs. Much more aggressive congressional oversight inevitably results when the House and its subcommittees pass into the hands of the opposition party. And the performance of U.S. government agencies, the U.S. armed services and major national defense contractors may well benefit from such intensified scrutiny and assessment.
The markup process also showed that the Democrats, like the Republicans, respect the political clout of major domestic aerospace corporations. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, the big defense contractors involved in the Airborne Laser, or ABL, program joined forces to make the case for continuing research funding on it until crucial tests of the weapon against a missile target can be held. Within two days, Tauscher had relented. She agreed to put back sufficient funding into the legislation to make those tests possible.
There is certainly no perfect bipartisan consensus on BMD on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the GOP-Democrat infighting over the BMD markup stood in striking contrast to the impressive bipartisan cooperation both parties displayed in the markup process on defense appropriations legislation in the other subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee.
Nevertheless, the markup debate on BMD showed that the difference between the two parties on the issue is far narrower than was commonly thought. There is a clear national consensus that BMD is necessary, affordable and practicable. And even the cuts that the Democrats did demand were a much smaller slice of the BMD budget pie than many had expected or feared.
The bottom line of the debate was clear: BMD is here to stay.
Source: United Press International
Somehow, this still sounds a little like "half a loaf is better than...."
Despite the $764 million that was cut from ballistic missile defense spending and related military space and high-tech programs, the outcome was basically good news for BMD. The cuts amount to less than 8.6 percent of the total BMD budget for Fiscal Year 2008, originally presented to Congress by the Bush administration at $8.9 billion.
Thanks for the ping!
Hunter managed to stuff $205 million more back in than the dems wanted.
He is our hero. He hasn’t let us down on anything.
He had to go toe to toe with the Clinton Pentagon to keep SDI alive. This is a legacy for him.
Ah those Democrats, showing their support for the defense of this nation in their own immutable way I see.
I knew this would happen. The nickel-and-diming if not the big massive slash. Almost as deadly to program progress.
This is on top of an already Bush-impaired program.
This is why I was so very mortified and angry at the skin-flinty and "limited" approach to NMD that W took...and his appeasements and placations of Russia's Vladmir Putin and the same pledges of limits to the Chicoms...despite their deploying sophisticated new nuclear SLBM subs....and clearly deploying thousands of intermediate range missiles many that likely are nukes and could be ship-borne surreptitiously to within U.S.-range.
Bush has allowed the Xlinton-ordered-lobotomies limiting the Aegis Standard Mark 2 missiles to a significantly smaller upper stage than it should have to do its mission. Of course, that was Strobe Talbott's and Madeline Albrights and Clinton's intent. Keep our air defense from becoming a defacto NMD. They even squandered the reduced Navy's procurement and R&D budgets...to DOWNGRADE the SM-2 missile design after it was mostly finished. The Navy had two fixes. One called Navy Area Missile Defense, a new missile. And another, relatively inexpensive reversal of what Clinton did...by replacing the lamed-up upper stage (17 inches narrower than it should be) with the Standard Mark 2, Flight 4(a) upper stage. Featuring significantly greater range, altitude and closing velocity. Bush, despite repeated and numerous pleas from the Navy...refused to fix the damage done. He had his just-hired Deputy Secretary of the DOD, Gordon Englund knife without any replacement whatsoever, the previously-scheduled Navy Area Missile Defense program development and deployment...on cost-inflation grounds. [This absence of replacement is in stark contrast that there has been no change of Navy determination of the combat need for it] And Bush has sat on the SM-2 fix. And this was all perversely enough, while he sending the misimpression to the public that he was moving forward...because they were taken the DAY AFTER HE CANCELLED THE ABM TREATY.
Bush kept those Clinton-limits...and the lame conceptual architecture... in place...and unbeknownst to all Americans except a few defense-wonks in the Air Force and Navy, a few defense contractors and State Dept....bragged about them to the Russkies and Chicoms.
These were unequivocally Appeasement "gestures."
As Angelo M. Codevilla, Prof. Int. Relations, BU, and a Fellow of the Claremont Institute said last summer in an NRO symposium on North Korea:
The fundamental prescription is: At least stop talking loud and paying ransom. Why help our enemies while insulting them - and calling it negotiations? Second, get serious about missile defense. Few realize that the Bush program is Clinton lite at twice the price. Once we stop encouraging our enemies and start defending ourselves, we may begin to think offensively.
This view was amplified by Newt Gingrich decrying the practical consequences of Bush's willful dithering in testing and deployments (and reading between the lines...playing patsy with the Russian and Chinese dictators)...:
The American public is being reassured that we have a ballistic-missile defense that will work. No serious person believes this. None of the tests have been robust enough or realistic enough to assure us that we could intercept the North Korean ICBM no matter where it was aimed.
Bush, not content to slash almost 80 ships from the active fleet since he took office (most of them far from obsolete with more than half their service life unused going to waste) also tried to force closure of half of our remaining sub-building ship yards, and half of our destroyer-building shipyards.
We need vastly more "coverage" to protect the US and its interests abroad...and the best...indeed really the only feasible way...is from ships. Aegis-type ships. We need a whole fleet of additional, NMD-Dedicated destroyers which can be on-station and rotated in and out for crew and maintenance. Better than bogging down the existing fleet with just another mission that would impair their flexibility.
We need numbers of platforms...to maintain the "home-base" coverage, and have the flexibility to bring air...and space... cover where needed.
And it will all take more money...money now being nickel-and-dimed away....even if this Administration finally woke up and realized that it doesn't have the luxury of time...or resources or even of capability.
All the opportunities squandered...because of Bush. I now know which President he most clearly reminds me of.
No, obviously he's not Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or as bad as any of the Rats... But, with his slashing of the Navy, dilatory and token recapitalization of the Air Force, and space capability (this despite needing them for the very real war we are in), and his "new tone" he is reminiscent of Warren G. Harding, and his "return to normalcy".
Warren Harding also exploited the "peace dividend" after WW-I, slashed the US Navy, and squandered his administration...leaving a record of a gravely weakened military and a lasting legacy of ignominy while his Cabinet covered him in shame...
Harding in the midst of a plethora of scandals plaguing his administration famously said. "I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, my God-damned friends... they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!"
Bush keeps those serious about U.S. defense walking the floor at nights...
I only hope we have the opportunity with either Duncan Hunter, or even a lesser Presidential candidate such as Fred Thompson or Mit Romney, to recapture the White House. Most all of them, excepting perhaps John McCain and Rudy Giuliani who promise more of the same mental mistakes as Bush, have, at least on paper, shown more defense-sense than the current "limited defense" Administration.
Duncan Hunter deserves our strongest support from all I have seen. On every issue key to national security...he is there.
H'mmm...where did that photo go with him with Ronald Reagan? It is classic.
Duncan Hunter fights Amnesty- comments on Larry King
We need to really punish the Xlintonesque marginalizing...if not outright ...scoff-lawing on national security we have been seeing from the RINOs. And we must not spare anyone.
Ever notice how nobody calls the Administration "the adults" anymore?
We need to restore that clear distinction...and bond of trust...with the People again, knowing that the Republican Presidential candidate will place their national security foremost...fighting for it tooth and nail...and would never dream of taking the oathe of office lightly.
In a sense, it is a kind of "product branding" for politics.
Unfortunately, we have had a corporate raider come in, cheapen and debase the product, while running on its reputation... and thereby sully the brand name, and destroy the product loyalty we should have had.
We have been left the difficult task of fixing it. Unfortunately, the scofflaws are still in power, so we have an even bigger obstacle than one would normally have encountered. Reagan at least had the clear alternative of Jimmy Carter front and center for the voters to consider. But with the RINOS in power, it muddles what the voters think the options are. We do absolutely need to accentuate the difference.
We are NOT the RINOs...and we aren't letting them sneak back in.
That would be a good campaign slogan for Duncan.
You mean these?
Duncan continues to impress the conservative base. The only candidate who does.
Those were all great!
But this one in particular captures the essence of mutual respect, and Duncan's clear humble admiration for Ron...
Those were the days ....
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