By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Obama administration proposed on Monday a 6.7 percent cut in overall U.S. ballistic-missile defense spending compared with last year as part of deficit reduction efforts.
The $9.7 billion sought for fiscal 2013, down $700 million from 2012, would scale back deployment of advanced radars built by Raytheon Co as well as a Lockheed Martin Corp “THAAD” antimissile system that works inside and outside the atmosphere.
The Pentagon proposed to reduce the total number of Theater High Altitude Area Defense interceptor missiles from 333 to 180 from fiscal 2013 to 2017 as part of a restructured program. The total savings over five years would be $1.8 billion, budget documents said.
Overall missile defense spending would total $47.4 billion for the five-year planning period through 2017, a Pentagon budget overview booklet said.
Congress has the final say on U.S. government spending and often makes major changes to administration spending requests.
Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, said the proposal would “protect” previously projected spending on the sole U.S. defense against long-range ballistic missiles that countries like Iran and North Korea are developing. Boeing Co manages the program that is due to include 38 interceptor silos in Alaska and California in 2013.
President Barack Obama’s blueprint also largely would maintain spending on protecting NATO allies and forces from regional ballistic missile threats, Hale said.
The proposal would relegate Raytheon Co’s Sea-based X-Band Radar to “limited test support” status to save $500 million a year while keeping the ability to recall it to an active operational status if needed.
“It’s very expensive to keep and operate, and we thought we could get adequate data for the testing that we’re doing without that radar,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acting chief arms buyer, said at a Pentagon briefing.
The Defense Department is looking to U.S. partners to help pick up the slack for regional missile defense caused by its budget cutbacks.
“There could be other Middle Eastern countries that we hope will either step up themselves or we will have to slow down some of our actions to improve their missile defenses,” Hale said.