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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Democrats Not Expected to Slash Missile Shield Money

The takeover of Congress by the Democratic Party and the departure of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are not expected to result in deep budget cuts to the U.S. missile defense system, Space & Missile Defense Report reported yesterday (see GSN, Nov. 9).

Democratic lawmakers could, though, pursue greater oversight of the program and possibly seek to kill some components that are performing poorly in testing.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is set to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Levin has questioned the need for some missile defense programs, noted problems in testing, and argued that the smuggling of a weapon of mass destruction into the United States is a greater threat than a missile attack.

“Ballistic missile defense is one among many components of our overall defense effort. It needs to be evaluated in the context of the full spectrum of threats and risks to our security, and balanced against other defense priorities,” Levin has said.

There “might be a token reduction in missile defense,” said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. However, he does not foresee significant funding reductions in the program, which is scheduled to receive tens of billions of dollars in coming years.

There are numerous reasons for anticipating sustained missile defense funding, according to Space & Missile Defense Report. These include:

—The assumption that Democrats uniformly oppose missile defense is not valid. The party will also want to show that it is strong on defense as it looks toward the 2008 presidential election.

—Particularly in light of North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests this year, there is concern about the vulnerability of United States, its deployed military forces and its allies to missiles of various ranges that might carry unconventional weapons. Iran also has a developing missile program and is suspected of seeking nuclear weapons.

—Work has already begun on various missile defense projects, making those programs more difficult to halt. Contractors include Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other major defense companies that are known to make contributions to both Democratic and Republican candidates (Space & Missile Defense Report, Nov. 13).
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