US discussing new shield against Iran and N Korea

US discussing new shield against Iran and N Korea

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
US discussing new shield against Iran and N Korea

With the Washington Monument in the background, an Avenger anti-aircraft missile launcher sits atop a Humvee standing guard in Washington in this March 2003 photo. AP photo

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee on May 9 backed construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast, rejecting Pentagon arguments that the facility is unnecessary and Democratic complaints that the nearly $5 billion project amounts to wasteful spending in a time of tight budgets.

In rancorous, lengthy debate, Republicans insisted that the site is necessary in the event that Iran or North Korea develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of attacking the East Coast. Democrats countered that throwing billions at a missile defense system plagued by failures made no sense, especially when the threat from the two nations was highly uncertain and many in Washington are demanding fiscal discipline.

This “would be spending up to $5 billion in the next three years on a missile defense system that doesn’t work,” said Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, who offered an amendment to eliminate the project from the Republican-backed bill. The chief proponent of constructing the site, Republican Rep. Michael Turner, said, “We need to proceed with missile defense whether this president wants to or not.” On a largely party-line vote, the panel rejected Garamendi’s effort, 33-28.

Since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has spent nearly $150 billion on missile defense programs and envisions another $44 billion over the next five years. But it is not looking to construct a facility on the East Coast. Gen. Charles Jacoby, the head of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told Congress earlier this year, “Today’s threats do not require an East Coast missile field, and we do not have plans to do so.”