WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- In a stiff challenge to the Pentagon's goal of building a "star wars" missile shield, the House yesterday slashed President Bush's $4.7 billion request for the program by more than half, to $2.3 billion.
The 225-189 vote sent a clear signal to the Pentagon that support for the Strategic Defense Initiative, waning since President Ronald Reagan left office nearly two years ago, has begun to plummet.
Representative Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the United States needed the "star wars" shield to avoid being "held hostage by some tinhorn dictator" armed with missiles.
But Representative Ronald V. Dellums, D-Calif., chairman of the armed services committee's research and development subcommittee, pointed out that only $143 million of the Pentagon's SDI budget is dedicated to destroying short-range tactical missiles like those being developed by Third World nations. Terrorists trying to send an atomic bomb into the United States would hide it on a plane or aboard a boat, he said.
The House took the action during its week-long debate on a $283 billion defense authorization bill. Final passage of the bill is expected today, after which House and Senate negotiators will begin ironing out conflicts between their two bills.