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Missile Defense Agency Requests Bigger Budget

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2010 – The Defense Department agency responsible for U.S. missile defense systems has requested $8.4 billion for fiscal year 2011, an increase of about a half billion dollars. Video

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Missile Defense Agency Executive Director David Altwegg conducts a press conference to discuss the fiscal year 2011 defense budget request and the fiscal year 2010 supplemental war funding request at the Pentagon, Feb. 2, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The request comes after an announcement last September that the United States would move away from a ground-based missile defense system to defend against Iranian and North Korean threats, to a sea-based platform.

“The budget supports continuous emphasis on development, testing, fielding, sustainment,” David Altwegg, the executive director of the Missile Defense Agency, told Pentagon reporters yesterday.

“We have shifted our emphasis from the ground-based defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles to the regional threat, short- and medium-range missiles, which comprise about 99 percent of the ballistic missile threat extant,” Altwegg said.

When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced plans to move from ground-based components in Poland and the Czech Republic, the rationale he offered was that the new sea-based approach is better suited to intelligence on Iranian threats and would provide protection sooner.

Going a step further, Gates -- a former CIA director -- said the new arrangement is preferable even if intelligence that Iran is more focused on developing short-range missiles over long-range capabilities prove incorrect.

But Gates emphasized that the United States would continue working with European allies on developing a system to defend against threats to the continent.

“We are starting the four-phased approach to fielding a capability in Europe against the emerging Iranian threat, initially against the short- and medium-range threat that exists,” Altwegg said, “and hence our initial emphasis will be on southeastern Europe.”

The Missile Defense Agency briefing fell on the same day the department released its first Ballistic Missile Defense Review, slated to take place every four years.

The review released yesterday aligns U.S. missile defense posture with near-term regional missile threats, and sustains the ability to defend the homeland against limited long-range missile attack, said Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters yesterday, Flournoy said the review identified six major priorities that will shape the U.S. missile defense approach: enhancing the country’s ability to

defend against a ballistic attack, defending against growing threats, execute realistic tests, develop new capabilities, being adaptable to changing threats and leading international missile defense cooperation.

“We believe this approach will provide reassurance to our allies that the United States will stand by our security commitments to them, will help to negate the coercive potential of regional actors attempting to limit U.S. influence and actions in key regions, and help strengthen regional deterrence architectures against states who are acquiring weapons of mass destruction,” she said.

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