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Missile defense on the chopping block?

In President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, he pledged to "reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use." Could this have been a reference to the planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe, on which Obama’s views are not exactly clear? Congressional Democrats, at least, do seem ...

In President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, he pledged to "reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use." Could this have been a reference to the planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe, on which Obama’s views are not exactly clear?

Congressional Democrats, at least, do seem to be taking aim at the system. California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, chairwoman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee is a critic of long-range missile defense, calling for a focus on short- and medium-range defense which have been more rigorously tested:

"Given the need to fund other high priority defense programs, reductions to the missile defense programs may be required."  

Tauscher’s subcomittee held a hearing yesterday in which Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, who heads the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, explained that his agency was conducting a review of existing missile defense systems in order to "identify limitations." 

The decision may be out of his hands. With Obama looking to contain costs, the Pentagon has drawn up a list of expensive weapons programs for possible cuts. MDA is on the list along with the Air force’s massively expensive F-22 fighter and new destroyers for the Navy. Details on which programs will be cut won’t be released until March or April but it’s rumored that missile defense will be cut by around $2 billion. 

Some defense analysts see the end of an era:

"There are clear signs that US defense spending peaked in 2008 and that it will be gradually declining over the next four years as the United States reduces its presence in Iraq," Thompson told AFP.

Joseph Cirincione made a persuasive case for cutting missile defense in the May/June 2008 issue of FP.

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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