Magazine article Arms Control Today

Congress Boosts Missile Defense Spending

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Congress Boosts Missile Defense Spending

Article excerpt

Lawmakers in March approved a record increase in spending on U.S. ballistic missile defense programs amid concern about the significant progress North Korea made last year to advance its ballistic missile capabilities.

Congress approved $11.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, an increase of $3.6 billion, or 46 percent, from the Trump administration's May 2017 initial budget request. The appropriation is the largest Congress has ever provided for the agency after adjusting for inflation.

The big jump in missile defense spending is part of the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law March 23. Fiscal year 2018 started Oct. 1, 2017, and runs until Sept. 30.

The law provides all of the extra $4 billion for missile defense programs requested by the administration in a November 2017 amendment to its fiscal year 2018 budget request. (See ACT, December 2017.) Trump said at a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, last August that he would be increasing the missile defense budget "by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with" missile defense.

The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, designed to protect the United States against a limited intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack from North Korea or Iran, received $568 million more than the budget request to begin increasing the number of long-range missile defense interceptors by up to 20 beyond the currently deployed 44. Congress doled out $393 million more than requested to accelerate the development of a new, more effective kill vehicle to arm the interceptors.

In addition, the law provides $1.3 billion in extra funds for the purchase of additional interceptors for the Navy's Aegis missile defense program and the Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense system.

The Defense Department is still conducting a congressionally mandated review of the U.S. approach to missile defense, which it began one year ago. (See ACT, May 2017.) The review report had originally been slated for completion in February, but the Pentagon now anticipates a May release.

The omnibus appropriations law is a nearly $1.3 trillion conglomeration of 12 appropriations bills that had to be passed to keep the government operating. For the first six months of the fiscal year, Congress passed a series of continuing resolutions that extended funding for most discretionary governmental programs at the previous year's levels, although several programs, including some missile programs, received fresh funding at the fiscal year 2018 request level.

In February, Congress agreed to a new, two-year budget deal that lifted the spending cap on national defense funding for fiscal year 2018, imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, from $549 billion to $629 billion. That act places limits on discretionary spending, including military spending.

The omnibus law largely supports the Trump administration's proposed budget request for programs to sustain and rebuild nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated nuclear warheads and supporting infrastructure. …

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