House lawmaker favors more funding for proven missile defenses

House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., Tuesday encouraged the Obama administration to give testing and proven missile defenses a higher priority for funding than the pursuit of more futuristic programs.

During an interview, Tauscher said the United States has "overinvested in a long-term system," the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, which is aimed at defeating long-range ballistic missile threats but has had intercept-testing issues.

Instead, Tauscher said she wants the money invested in several programs that can defeat immediate threats facing the United States and allies.

"I would predict that the Obama administration is probably going to get the top-line number right and whatever that number is, we'll have to see," Tauscher said. "The question is ... the innards. It's the investment policy that we have. It's making sure that [the Missile Defense Agency] is accountable in a way that provides systems that are deliverable to the services."

Tauscher stressed that the military needs additional Patriot PAC-3 missiles, as well as more of the Navy's Aegis-based system and the Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense -- areas her subcommittee has worked to boost funding for in the last two years.

She also said she would like to see the military develop a ground-based Aegis system, which provides a last line of defense for a missile attack. "I think you are going to be seeing that soon," she added.

The Pentagon is expected to send a general budget outline to Capitol Hill in the next few weeks, but detailed funding requests will not be ready until late March or April as the administration weighs its defense spending priorities.

Aside from individual programs, Tauscher said that she wants to continue to ensure that MDA is "unambiguously accountable" and money within the missile defense program is being spent wisely.

Last year, the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill included several new checks on MDA, which Tauscher and other lawmakers believed had too little oversight for an agency that manages up to $10 billion in programs a year.

Among the new requirements is an annual review of the missile defense program by the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation.

No longer is MDA an agency where "we have a lot of good science and a lot of good technology to show for it, but very little delivered to the war-fighter -- which is, by the way, the bottom line," Tauscher said.

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