Yesterday, the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee proposed cutting $764 million from the Pentagon's $8.9 billion request for missile defense programs in Fiscal year 2008. Included in the cuts were $160 million from the missile defense system in Europe which would "temporarily halt" construction of silos in Poland but permit continuation of the ground-based radar in the Czech Republic and the R&D on the missile interceptors.
According to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, subcommittee Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher said there needs to be debate on "Eastern European deployment…adding that the administration is trying to go around NATO while ‘we should be working within NATO….'"
But even these minimal cuts might not hold. The subcommittee's ranking member, Republican Rep. Terry Everett, hopes that the money for the Polish site will eventually be restored and Republican Rep. Trent Franks said he was "dumbfounded" by the cuts and will offer amendments when the full House Armed Services Committee meets next week.
"If this cut holds, it affects the third interceptor site in Poland – the interceptors in Alaska and California are already deployed – but it doesn't kill it entirely," says Victoria Samson, Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information. "The funding exists to start doing R&D on the proposed interceptors and leaves open the possibility for future cooperation on the Polish site."
Another critical and perhaps less noticed cut was $10 million for the proposed insidiously named Space Test Bed. According to a CDI report co-authored by Samson "this [program] would represent the first dedicated spacebased weapons program since 1993." The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) proposes spending $290 million on this system through FY13. (It is notable that the MDA reduced its request for FY08 from $45 million to $10 million which raises these questions: are other programs doing background research for the Space Test Bed on the down low? Or perhaps the work has been classified?)
"I'm glad to see that the entire FY08 budget for the proposed Space Test Bed is gone," Samson says, "let's see how that holds up in the budgetary process. This funding would weaponize space by stealth – a move that merits a serious debate of the pros and cons, as well as an acknowledgement of the potential consequences."
Debate? Acknowledgement of consequences? Both are in short supply in the New Cold War. If your representative is a member of the House Armed Services Committee let him or her know these cuts need to be retained – and new ones identified. Spending billions on a new nuclear arsenal, and a system that raises fears of a first strike capability, is no way to promote peace.