Before Christmas I quoted a GOP Senate staffer who confidently -- if ruefully -- predicted a $1 billion cut to the Missile Defense Agency's budget under a new Congress. At the time this seemed a lot. Well, that amount apparently has doubled and it doesn't seem such a large cut any more.
The GOP is not standing still. One of the Senate's top missile defense advocates, Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, has written SecDef Robert Gates saying a 20 percent cut to missile defense spending would just be too much.
"While I realize the competition for funding among defense programs will be intense, I respectfully caution the Department that it would be imprudent to take any premature action" before the QDR and a missile defense review required by last year's defense authorization bill are completed, Sessions wrote. At the end of the letter, Sessions hauls out the North Korean launch preparations for good measure, saying major missile defense cuts would be "disturbing... at the very time our potential adversaries are demonstrating the ability to reach US territory and that of our allies with ballistics missiles."
A Senate aide said that funding for the coming budget should include about $500 million (including milcon) in European missile defense research and development since this would signal our commitment to the Poles and Czechs and would not disrupt talks with the Russians since it would not immediately result in hardware deployment.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is trumpeting that the Obama administration has reached out to Russia and is offering a deal -- you help us with Iran and we may trim our European anti-missile capability.
But a Senate GOP aide questioned whether the Times has the story right. "I think the New York Times is blowing this out of proportion," the aide said. "Essentially, this is what we’ve been telling the Russians all along. Having said that I'm sure there are Obama staff who would contemplate giving up the European sites in return for a number of things with the Russians."
The effect of the apparent Obama position is that “you are pulling rug out from under our allies in return for dubious promises from the Russians,” this aide argued.