Report questions Fort Greely role in national defense

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

FAIRBANKS - A U.S. Senate subcommittee report chastises the Defense Department for de-emphasizing ground-based missile interceptors, such as those at Fort Greely in Alaska, as it develops a national defense system.

The report, from a subcommittee led by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, accompanies the Senate version of a defense spending bill for fiscal year 2006, which began Oct. 1. The Senate passed the bill Oct. 7. It must now be merged with a House of Representatives version passed in June.

"After many years of investment in this midcourse interceptor, (the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency) has now essentially decided that the first generation GBI will also be its last generation GBI," the report stated.

The report also stated that the MDA "is considering breaking apart" the ground-based midcourse defense program and giving its parts to different military branches.

MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said the agency had no comment on the Senate report.

Stevens chairs the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The congressional committees that write appropriations bills traditionally include "report language" to explain how members think money should be spent and to address other concerns.

Stevens' spokeswoman, Courtney Schikora Boone, said Monday that the report language simply encourages the Missile Defense Agency to continue work on programs that will result in a functional missile defense system in the near future.

"They have been very focused on their (research and development) efforts, which we appreciate, but they need to stay focused on their near-term priorities," Boone said.

Those include the ground-based, midcourse segment and the Aegis ship-based missile defense segment, she said. Stevens also emphasized those programs during a defense budget hearing in May.

The recent report language says the Missile Defense Agency is trying to steer a new course.

"Contrary to repeated Defense Department statements on spiral development and block upgrades for the missile defense program, MDA at best plans only marginal improvements to the capability of the GMD program's ground-based interceptor," the report stated.

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