WASHINGTON — A US House subcommittee wants to give the Pentagon $70 million next year to begin construction of a controversial missile shield, moving it one step closer to becoming reality.
A House Appropriations Committee aide told Defense News on Wednesday that the 2014 defense appropriations bill prepared by its defense subcommittee contains $70.2 million for the GOP-proposed site, which last year was partially blocked by Senate Democrats.
If included in the final version of the 2014 defense appropriations act, the monies “would, in theory, be spent this year,” the aide said.
If adopted in the final bill, the Pentagon would have the funds to begin erecting the site. The Pentagon is completing a congressionally mandated study of potential sites, with several under consideration in the northeast United States.
Senate Democrats last year slowed the East Coast plan, rejecting GOP’s effort to include it in 2013 defense authorization legislation. Instead, Republicans and Democrats opted to order the study of potential sites.
But an actual appropriation would give the Defense Department funds to begin moving dirt and installing missile interceptors. Senate Democrats say there is no requirement for the system, and charge it would be too expensive in an era of declining Pentagon budgets.
It remains unclear whether Democrats will block the plan again this year. Some Democrats, including the No. 3 Senate Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, already are lobbying for part of the shield in their home states.
If erected, the site could provide an unexpected boost for US firms that make missile interceptors, radars and other missile defense components.
The House Armed Services Committee is expected to take up at least one amendment on Wednesday or early Thursday morning that would give the East Coast site congressional approval, sources say.