Senators Vote to Boost Missile Defense; Amendment Calls for Tests by Next Year

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Byline: Brian DeBose, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Senate Republicans yesterday ensured that the nation's efforts to improve missile defense will continue to be a priority.

The Senate passed several amendments yesterday to the $447 billion fiscal 2005 Defense Department spending authorization bill with little fanfare. With the exception of one assault attempt on the Bush tax cuts, most of the debate centered on how the country would move forward in conducting tests for missile-defense systems, beefing up the size of the military and increasing military benefits.

A final vote on the defense bill is expected Wednesday.

An amendment by Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, requires the secretary of defense to develop criteria for real-life operational missile tests by Feb. 1, with the testing to begin no later than Oct. 1, 2005. The amendment also calls for the Pentagon to deliver a base price for the program to Congress.

"Mr. Warner is removing the customary way we test defense through independent testers. He wants the secretary of defense and the Pentagon to conduct and review the test," said Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, whose amendment was replaced by Mr. Warner's.

The Warner amendment says the Pentagon will be responsible for conducting and reviewing operational tests on its own missile defense without an independent analysis.

"I don't think we can make this timeline ... we don't want to curtail missile defense; we just want independent evaluation," Mr. Reed said.

But Mr. Reed was able to persuade senators in a 93-4 vote to boost the number of troops from 482,400 to 502,400 by the end of 2005, contrary to Bush administration requests. …