- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Senate panel voted yesterday to reduce the funding the Bush administration requested for a planned U.S. missile defense system in Europe, making it more likely that construction on the project will be delayed.

The Appropriations Committee cut at least $85 million from a request by the White House for the European system. The House also has cut $85 million, with an additional cut of $54 million from a separate part of the funding.

If the current Senate version is approved, it would affect the building of a project that would include silos for 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. The plan has roiled relations with Russia, which has suggested that the system could undermine its nuclear deterrent.

The United States has said the system is designed to counter any threat from Iran.

Some congressional Democrats have been skeptical of the missile defense system’s chances for success in countering ballistic missiles. They also have questioned whether an unproven system is worth upsetting relations with Russia.

According to Baker Spring, a national security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, the cut would chiefly affect the building of the site in Poland. It also could delay the completion of the project, though Congress could restore the money before construction is scheduled to begin next year.

“It’s not such a big cut that you could be irretrievably behind schedule,” Mr. Spring said.

The bill next goes to the full Senate and must be reconciled with the House version before it can go to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

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