By Wade Boese
Congress approved $7.4 billion for the Pentagon to spend on ballistic missile defenses for fiscal year 2003 in October legislation and mandated that the Pentagon share more information on its missile defense plans with Congress in legislation passed in November.
In early October, Congress approved the Defense Appropriations Act, which President George W. Bush signed October 23. The act gave the Pentagon $400 million less in missile defense funding than its $7.8 billion request.
Legislators trimmed funds from some sea-based missile defense programs, an early-warning satellite project with Russia, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense program, and research into kinetic energy weapons for use against ballistic missiles shortly after they are launched. Congress fully funded the Pentagon’s $2 billion request for work on the ground-based midcourse missile defense system and provided $533 million for development of the new missile defense test bed, which includes construction of a missile interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska.
Shortly after returning to Washington following the November 5 elections, legislators passed the Defense Authorization Act and cleared it for the White House November 13. In the act, lawmakers moved to offset actions the Pentagon took earlier this year that were perceived as lessening legislative oversight of U.S. missile defense efforts. One of the top congressional complaints was that the Department of Defense had cancelled a process that established design parameters and performance objectives for each missile defense program.
If signed by Bush, the authorization act would require the Pentagon to inform Congress annually of “the performance goals and development baselines” for any missile defense system that might be deployed or that is of special interest to Congress. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council, which is an advisory body to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also tasked to conduct a one-time review and report on each missile defense program’s cost, schedule, and performance criteria to see if they are valid. The Missile Defense Agency was further charged with reporting all flight test results of the ground-based midcourse missile defense system directly to the relevant congressional committees.
Both acts ruled out the use of any funds to research, develop, evaluate, test, procure, or deploy missile defense interceptors armed with nuclear warheads. A news report appeared last spring that a Pentagon advisory board with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s blessing would explore nuclear-armed interceptors, but senior senators from both parties quickly and vehemently denounced the idea.