Sep 27 2006

Lawmakers restore funds for missile defense work

The Huntsville Times

By SHELBY G. SPIRES

Shelby praises Senate panel vote for KEI program here

The majority of the budget for a Huntsville-related missile defense program was restored Monday by a U.S. Senate conference committee vote, said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

More than 150 people work on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor missile defense program in Huntsville, but military and defense contractor officials have said hundreds of jobs could be tied to the KEI program when it is in full development.

Shelby managed to insert more than $150 million into the program for fiscal 2007 in the Senate version of the defense spending bill.

A previous Senate version of the bill had sliced about $200 million from the KEI program. The House had fully funded the $405 million White House request for the program in its version of the Defense Department budget.

Shelby called the Kinetic Energy Interceptor "a vital component" of the Ballistic Missile Defense System.

"I am confident KEI will continue development on schedule with a boost flight test still planned for 2008," he said.

The bill provides $357 million for the program in fiscal 2007.

The defense spending bill now under consideration provides $436.6 billion for Pentagon programs, including $70 billion for operations related to the war on terror.

The spending bill now must pass a similar committee vote in the House, then both houses of Congress and sent to the White House for President Bush's signature. The fiscal year begins Sunday.

Among money for other Huntsville-related programs are:

$3 billion for Ground-Based Midcourse Defense, a first line of defense against ballistic missile attacks. The bill provides an additional $200 million for test infrastructure, operations support and additional interceptors for the program.

$856.4 million for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program that includes the Boeing Delta IV made in Decatur.

$489 million to buy 108 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.

$324.2 million for the Non-Line-of-Sight-Launch System, a program at Redstone Arsenal.

$167.1 million for the Army Light Utility Helicopter program managed at Redstone.

$144.9 million for the Multiple Kill Vehicle program, designed to enhance the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system through the use of several missiles launched from one interceptor.

$101.8 million to buy 12 Army armed reconnaissance helicopters.

$1.6 million for the Unmanned Systems Initiative, which is under development at the Redstone Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.