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U.S. Congress cuts missile defense, space weapons, nuke funding

RIA Novosti

10/05/2007 12:24 MOSCOW, May 10 (RIA Novosti) - A United State congressional panel has cut administration defense spending for next year by 9% of the total requested, blocking funds to build a missile base in Poland.

In a resolution focused heavily on greater independent control over President Bush's missile defense projects, the House Armed Services Committee cut $764 million from the requested total of over $10 billion. The cuts put under threat spending on a Polish interceptor site and other projects, such as space weaponization, the development of a new nuclear warhead for the Trident missile and the replacement of its nuclear warheads by conventional ones.

Cutting $160 million from $310 million originally requested by the Bush administration for deployment of ten interceptor facilities in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, head of the Strategic Forces subcommittee Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat, said that if the bill becomes law, the administration would be able to resubmit its request for the blocked funds, when and if, the Polish government approved the construction, and if a special independent comprehensive inquiry reassured Congress about the "political, technical, operational, command-and-control, and budgetary aspects" of the European missile defense concept.

She also said the subcommittee would like to hold another independent inquiry into the role and importance of the Missile Defense Agency which currently oversees crucial missile defense activities.

The Anti-Ballistic Laser (ABL) program was severely hit, along with other "less mature" initiatives, such as Space Tracking and Survelliance, Multiple Kill Vehicles, and Missile Defense Space Test Bed, primarily linked to the deployment of missile defenses in the outer space.

Tauscher said these programs could undermine efforts to prevent an extraterrestrial arms race.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. NGO standing up against political interference in science, has accused the Bush administration of attempting to continue research into space weaponization under the cover of classified military budget spending.

The Committee fully upheld the U.S. Army request for the already operational PAC-3 Patriot surface-to-air systems.

The funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, under which a new nuclear warhead is to be developed for the basic U.S. nuclear missile Trident instead of the W-76 commissioned in 1978, was cut by $20 million from the requested $88 million. Its future will also be subject to approval by a special independent expert commission on nuclear non-proliferation, similar to what former State Secretaries Henry Kissinger and George Schultz had called for in January.

The Armed Services Committee also cut the $135 million request for the Conventional Trident Modification Program, under which some of the Tridents based worldwide were to be equipped with non-nuclear warheads to employ them in the war on terror, leaving only as much money as is needed for further research and development. Tauscher highlighted concerns over potential Trident launches, saying such a launch might be misinterpreted by other states as a nuclear strike.

The bill approved by the Armed Services Committee has yet to be approved by both houses and by President Bush to become law.

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