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House Passes Foster Amendment To NDAA

May 15, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC—Today, the United States House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act introduced by Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11). The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 tasks the Missile Defense Agency with developing a concept for a space-based missile defense system. Foster’s amendment would require a report on the cost of this project.

Foster spoke about the amendment on the House floor. Video is available here.

“There is no doubt that national defense is a critical priority,” said Foster. “But as a scientist, I think we need to do our homework before investing hundreds of billions of dollars into developing a space-based missile defense system. That is why I have introduced legislation to require a cost estimate of this project.” 

In 2012, a report by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that even to provide limited coverage, hundreds to thousands of orbiting satellites, known as interceptors, would be required to stop any incoming ballistic missile. Because of the costs to launch, maintain, operate, and replenish the interceptors, even a limited system would cost an estimated $200 billion to acquire and have a $300 billion, 20-year life cycle cost.

Setting aside the high cost, a space-based missile defense system has inherent vulnerabilities that greatly limit its effectiveness. Even with thousands of interceptors deployed, only a few would be within range to target an incoming missile, and those could be easily overwhelmed by the launch of several missiles from one location.

Foster introduced two additional amendments that House Republicans refused to include in debate. The amendments would have prohibited funds from being used to plan or construct an east coast missile defense facility until a study on the effectiveness of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is presented to Congress and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certifies that there is a need for such a facility.

Text of Foster’s speech is below:

The National Defense Authorization Act tasks the Missile Defense Agency with developing a concept for a space-based missile defense system.

There is no doubt that a missile defense, if technologically feasible, militarily robust and economically justifiable, would be an important priority for our national security.

But as a scientist, I think that we need to do our homework before we begin investing hundreds of billions of dollars into developing this system. 

And that is why I am introducing this amendment to require a preliminary cost estimate for this project. 

A 2012 report by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that even to provide limited coverage, hundreds of interceptors would be required to stop an incoming ballistic missile.

Because of the costs to launch, maintain, operate, and replenish the interceptors, even a limited system would cost a minimum of $200 billion.

We must do our due diligence before investing billions of taxpayer dollars in any project.

I urge my colleagues to join me and vote yes on this amendment.

Thank you, I yield back.