House, Senate to square off over East Coast missile shield

"It will be one of the big issues" when House and Senate conferees meet later this year on the spending plan, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters on Monday. 

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House Republicans pushed for language calling for an East Coast missile shield to be in place by 2015 in their version of the Defense Department's budget blueprint. 

Though lampooned by House Democrats as an "East Coast Star Wars fantasy base," the shield language was folded into the House defense budget bill and passed by the full chamber on May 18, by a vote of 299-120. 

However, Levin and others on the Senate side remain unconvinced on the need for a new missile shield in the continental United States. 

That doubt is driven by the fact the Pentagon has no need for such a system inside the United States, Levin said. 

The missile shield has "no basis in military requirements," and GOP concerns that are fueling support for the new missile defense system are essentially a "replay of the old, Cold War debate," he said. 

DOD spokesman Capt. John Kirby reiterated that sentiment during a May 31 press conference at the Pentagon. 

"It's not programmed for in the budget we just submitted back in February. We [just] don't believe we need it right now," Kirby said at the time. 

That said, the missile shield is one of many issues being hashed out as part of the so-called "hedge strategy" being worked on inside the Pentagon, Strategic Command chief Gen. Bob Kehler said that same month. 

DOD already has limited missile defense capability already in place across the country, including the anti-missile systems already established on the West Coast. Those systems are tailored to address the specific North Korean missile threat, particularly against potential targets in Hawaii, Alaska and the western coastline of the country.