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Missile Defense Funding Increased: Senate Gives Bush Option to Use Money for Counterterrorism

27 June 2002

The Senate voted yesterday to give President Bush the extra money he wants to develop a missile defense system but said it should be spent instead on immediate counterterror needs, handing Bush a spending victory and a potential political problem.

By voice vote after two days of behind-the-scenes maneuvering, the Senate approved a proposal by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) to use anticipated savings from a revision of inflation estimates to make an additional $814 million available for missile defenses or anti-terror efforts.

A similar amount had been cut by the Armed Services Committee from Bush's $7.6 billion request for the anti-missile program and was diverted to shipbuilding and other military projects.

But before adding the new money from inflation savings, the Senate approved a proposal by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the armed services panel. It stated that the Senate regarded defense-related efforts to protect against terrorism as the "top priority" for use of the funds.

Levin said the Democrats' proposal would allow Bush to spend the $814 million on his high-priority effort to develop, build and deploy a defense against ballistic missile attacks. But he said the president "would be ignoring the will of Congress and public opinion" if he did so. Several Democratic aides suggested that Bush faces political trouble if he spent the money on missile defenses and subsequently found that anti-terror programs had been shortchanged.

"How could anyone think we are more likely to be the target of a ballistic missile attack than another terrorist incident?" said Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.).

Warner, ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he believed Bush would spend most of the money on missile defenses. Warner contended that the language of Levin's proposal was broad enough to include missile defenses as part of homeland security.

The missile defense compromise was approved as part of the defense authorization bill for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1; the Senate is expected to approve the legislation later this week. The White House has targeted several provisions of the bill with veto threats, but Warner said he believed the missile defense provision was no longer veto bait.

Final details of the bill, which authorizes military programs that are to be funded by a subsequent appropriations bill, will be worked out in House-Senate negotiations. The GOP-controlled House authorized even more than Bush requested for missile defenses and is not considered likely to look favorably on the conditions added by the Senate.

In other action yesterday, the Senate approved a bipartisan proposal to expand efforts aimed at keeping terrorists and rogue countries from obtaining nuclear materials. The initiative, sponsored by Sens. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and passed by voice vote, would strengthen cooperative efforts with Russia to secure and neutralize nuclear materials, expand such efforts to more countries and put more emphasis on protection from "dirty bombs" with radioactive materials.

Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee provided $7.36 billion for the missile defense program next year as part of its spending bill for military operations. The bill is scheduled for action by the full House today.

While accepting most of Bush's proposals, the committee rejected $90 million requested for developing a sea-based missile shield. It said the Pentagon needs to complete preliminary testing and resolve issues such as the size and speed of the missile to be used.

Helen Dewar (with Dan Morgan)
Published by the Washington Post © 2002 Washington Post

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