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. A Good Year For Missile Defense Part One

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by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Dec 26, 2007
The year 2007 was the year the U.S. ballistic-missile defense program dodged the bullet it was supposed to bite.

It was the first year that control of federal funding in the U.S. House of Representatives passed to the Democrats since 1994. There were widespread fears in the U.S. defense contracting community and among advocates of ballistic missile defense that as a result, funding for BMD programs would be dramatically slashed. But this didn't happen. On the contrary, the year ended with the main immediate programs of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency looking more robust than ever.

The main reason for this was the remarkable bipartisan consensus in the new 110th Congress that was quickly established. Much of the credit for this achievement should go to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the new speaker of the House of Representatives, and to her fellow California Democrat, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who chairs the significant Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. In both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, contrary to their general partisan image, pulled together and generally proved statesmanlike and constructive in hammering out workable compromises on funding BMD programs.

Indeed, Riki Ellison, president and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, wrote on June 5 in Space News that Democrats and Republicans in Congress now agreed on almost all funding issues associated with BMD.

He also pointed out that after decades of opposing, or appearing to oppose, any costly and ambitious U.S. ballistic missile defense program on principle, the Democrats had now embraced it. At a time of growing international tensions, especially with Russia and China, this robbed the Republicans of a monopoly on an increasingly popular issue.

"Throughout the past 25 years, missile defense has been perceived and considered a Republican platform position. Now the Democratic majority in Congress is challenging this perception and reality," Ellison wrote.

Ellison acknowledged that the majority Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had just approved a defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008 that included more than $10 billion in funding for BMD programs.

"More remarkable was the overall House vote of 397 to 27 to add an additional $200 million for missile defense above President George W. Bush's 2008 budget request," he wrote.

Ellison noted that the House therefore approved no less than 96 percent of what the Bush administration had asked for to continue funding BMD. And the request looks likely to be passed into law with little -- if any -- attempt to scale it back. On May 24 the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is now also controlled by Democrats, approved a very similar appropriations bill for $10.1 billion in BMD funding.

And as Ellison pointed out, the Senate committee's markup "included an additional $75 million above the administration request to come in at 98 percent of the president's request for missile defense."

Ellison justly concluded, "This is quite a statement of support for missile defense by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate.

"Most notably the Democratic majority has fully funded all of the current and soon to be deployed U.S. systems. ... (Therefore) a bipartisan response to ballistic missile threats as well as support for our military's missile defense clearly has become a matter of fact and not a consequence of partisan politics."

But 2007 was a very good year for U.S. BMD programs for other reasons apart from the remarkable new Capitol Hill consensus that ensured the program's future. It also saw remarkable progress on a wide spectrum of BMD systems ranging from THAAD and the ABL to even the long-troubled GBI.

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Russia warns of 'measures' against US missile shield
Moscow (AFP) Dec 24, 2007
Russia will retaliate against any deployment of a US missile shield in central Europe which would weaken Moscow's nuclear deterrent, the foreign ministry spokesman said Monday.

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