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Rep. Polis tries to trim wasteful defense spending

Congressman Jared Polis.

Congressman says cuts would have been in line with GAO recommendations on dysfunctional missile defense system

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Instead of cutting social programs or budgets for public land management agencies, Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) sought to take a $403 million bite out of the budget deficit by slicing funding for a non-functioning missile defense program — as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.

“As we make tough choices to balance the budget, a missile defense program that can’t seem to hit its targets is a good target to achieve savings for taxpayers,” Polis said. “In a time of large deficits and increasing debt, Congress should have to justify every penny it spends to the taxpayers, and there just isn’t any justification for spending an additional $400 million on a weapons program that doesn’t work.”

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets annual Pentagon budget priorities, failed on a largely party line vote of 164-252.

The Ground Based Midcourse Defense  program was designed to intercept limited intermediate- and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles before they reenter the earth’s atmosphere.

An Aegis missile launches from a ship. Click to visit the missile defense agency website.

But since 1997, the system has failed more than half of its tests, missing its target nine times in 17 chances. The last two intercept flight tests in January 2010 and December 2010 failed. There has not been a successful intercept test since December 2008.

The GAO recommended that Congress reduce funding for the program, “until the failure review investigation is completed, mitigations are developed and proven in ground testing, and then confirmed through flight testing.”

Despite the failures and GAO’s recommendations, House Republicans increased spending on the GMD program above even the Pentagon’s request. The U.S. has deployed 26 ground based interceptors in Alaska and four in California.

For now, the Defense Department “lacks the comprehensive analytic basis needed to make fully informed decisions about the types and quantities of elements and interceptors it needs,” the GAO said.

Read and download the GAO report on the missile defense system here.

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