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US cutting operations at main Pacific missile testing range

by Staff Writers
Majuro (AFP) March 6, 2008
The cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the US to cut back operations at its Pacific missile testing range in the Marshall Islands, the range commander said Thursday.

"The global war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan costs money and it has to come from somewhere," said Reagan Test Site commander, Colonel Stevenson Reed.

"We're not immune," Reed said after briefing Marshall Islands President Litokwa Tomeing in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro.

About six million US dollars will be cut from the 250 million dollar annual budget this year, meaning lay-offs for more than seven percent of its American and Marshall Islands workforce.

The missile range at Kwajalein atoll has been the testing ground for every US missile and anti-missile defense system since it was first established in the mid-1960s.

The US pays Kwajalein landowners more than 15 million dollars annually to rent islands in this boomerang-shaped necklace of low-lying coral islands that are dotted with radar, high speed infrared cameras and missile launch pads.

The range is going through a four-year transformation period, during which it will cut about six million dollars from its budget annually.

Last year, the US army started shifting some range operations and personnel to its Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Alabama.

The planned installation of a deep sea fibre optic communications cable by 2010 will allow some range operations to be will be run remotely, cutting costs for US Defense Department contractors and other branches of the military that use Kwajalein, Reed said.

Tony deBrum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, a former US territory in the Western Pacific, expressed dismay at the sudden announcement of the cutbacks.

About 12,000 islanders who live crowded on the tiny island of Ebeye, which has been described as the "slum of the Pacific", depend heavily on the salaries of the 1,125 Marshall Islanders who work at the nearby missile base.

Up to 100 are expected to lose their jobs this year, while 64 American jobs will also be lost.

"There is no doubt that the reduction in the Marshall Islands workforce at Kwajalein over the next four years will have immediate impact on families of the employees who will be laid off," deBrum said.

DeBrum said he was "particularly dismayed" about the announcement by Reed because he was told by US Defense Department officials last year there would be no reduction in the workforce.

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India, Israel to jointly develop anti-aircraft missiles
New Delhi (AFP) Feb 27, 2008
India will jointly build a surface-to-air missile with its second biggest weapons supplier Israel and hopes for such collaborations with other countries, the defence minister said Wednesday.







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