This was a vote on an amendment, which would have eliminated funding for the Kinetic Energy Missile Defense Interceptor Program. This program was intended to develop and deploy U.S. missiles that could intercept and destroy enemy missiles. The amendment was offered by Rep. Tierney (D-MA) to H.R 3326, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Defense Department.
Rep. Tierney, in his statement in support of the amendment, said: “(T)he Bush administration made the initial decision to terminate the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program in its fiscal year 2010 Program Objectives Memorandum last fall. Then, President Obama did not include funding for it in his budget proposal, and both the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee did not specify funding for it . . . (Defense) Secretary Gates has testified that . . . ‘There's no extant ship we can put it on. We would have to design a new ship.’ The head of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General O'Reilly, has said that the Kinetic Energy Interceptor program is being terminated because ‘its capability is inconsistent with the missile defense mission to counter rogue nation threats.’
Tierney added: “(T)he Kinetic Energy Interceptor program was intended to be a 5-year development program that is now a 16-year development program . . . it is never too late to do the right thing, and here is our opportunity to do the right thing. We have to, at some point in time, start looking at all of our budgets, and that includes the Defense budget, to make sure that we're not putting money out that needs to be put towards other priorities.”
Rep. Holt (D-NJ), who co-sponsored the amendment, argued that “even if the Kinetic Energy Interceptor were successful, it will never work well enough to change our strategy. Missile defense systems must be perfect to achieve their professed goals, and we can never get that perfection. The fact that we don't need them against our friends and that they will only encourage our enemies to build more offensive systems to get around, this so-called shield are the arguments against this missile defense. The best this flawed system could ever provide is a provocative, yet permeable defense.”
Rep. Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3326, opposed the amendment. He acknowledged that “after all these years of no oversight in the Defense Department, they get nothing from the program. We've got the same thing in many of these other programs. What I'm trying to convince them is they have to have oversight earlier in a research program. Now, the Under Secretary (of Defense) tells me that in the new research programs he is going to try to have a cost cap or some kind of effectiveness so that they measure it, benchmarks of some sort so that they can measure these earlier. We may have to adjust this in (the House-Senate conference that will reconcile the two versions of the Defense Department spending bills), if this amendment doesn't pass, but I ask the Members to vote ‘no’ on this amendment, and we will see what we can work out.”
Murtha concluded his remarks by saying: “(T)he program has already spent $1 billion, and we ought to get something out of it.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote 124-307. One hundred and ten Democrats, including a majority of the most progressive Members, and fourteen Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-three Republicans and one hundred and forty-four Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, funds for the Kinetic Energy Missile Defense Interceptor Program remained in the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Defense.