House Republicans call for greater military effort in space

Republican leaders on the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday launched a push for more spending on classified space programs, stating that China's recent anti-satellite missile test ushered in a "new era of military competition."

House Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told reporters that the military needs a "new dimension" in its space capabilities after China successfully destroyed a low-orbit weather satellite in a test earlier this month. "That should sharpen our focus and redouble our efforts," Hunter said.

Neither Hunter nor House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee ranking member Terry Everett, R-Ala., would discuss specific programs that could receive increased investments. But the United States must be prepared to pre-empt threats, shield U.S. military assets in space from adversaries and quickly replace destroyed systems, Hunter said.

Hunter also emphasized that the United States should lean on European allies to halt sales to China of any technologies that could be used to attack U.S. space technologies.

With less than a week before the White House sends its fiscal 2008 budget request to Capitol Hill, Hunter and Everett appeared eager to get out front on an issue they believe deserves more attention from both the administration and their congressional colleagues.

They wrote a letter Tuesday to President Bush, contending that space systems are "integral to the daily execution of virtually every military campaign, operations and exercise involving U.S. forces today." They called on the administration to review Defense Department programs that protect U.S. space assets, and they encouraged the development of new systems.

"The dependency of American warfighting capability, and the economy, on space assets compels our nation to take the necessary steps to ensure our forces cannot be targeted through an adversarial space strike," they wrote.

Lawmakers, including Hunter and Everett, have long been skeptical of many of the Pentagon's unclassified space programs and have routinely cut funding for programs, such as the Air Force's Space Radar and Transformation Communications Satellite that are over budget, behind schedule or both.

But Everett acknowledged today that Air Force Under Secretary Ron Sega, who oversees many of the military's space systems, is making strides getting programs on track. Still, Everett left open the possibility of some cuts to space systems this year, but added that he will push for increases in other areas under the panel's jurisdiction. He would not comment on specifics until after the White House releases its budget next week.

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