Defying most expectations, a controversial idea to emplace anti-Iranian ballistic missile defenses on the East Coast of the United States survived a key roadblock in Congress, to the taxpayer tune of $100 million next year.
Senate and House conferees merged their defense authorization bills on Thursday and included a requirement to conduct a an environmental impact study of "at least" three sites, two of which must be on the EastCoast and “a requirement to develop a contingency plan to implement one of the sites,” according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides $552 billion in defense spending and an additional $88 billion in “contingency” war spending. That level is $1.7 billion above the president’s request, according to House Armed Services Committee, and above the spending limit set by lastyear’s Budget Control Act. But House Republicans claim they have offsetting spending cut in other non-defense accounts.
But the controversy over the missile defense provision is not about spending $100 million as much as the purpose, which according to the House committee is expressly “to respond to rising ballistic missile threats from states like Iran.”
Iran does not posses ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, but members like Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
said Iran could have them by 2015, during floor debate before passage of the Senate version of the bill.
The administration opposes the measure
, which has beenlooked at already inside the Pentagon as a future contingency but not with the urgency conservatives on the Hill gave it this year.