Fight brewing over missile shield

House Republicans are gearing up to wage another fight this year over a new East Coast missile defense site.

Sixteen Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee fired the first shot Tuesday, sending a letter urging House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) to include $250 million in funding for the site in this year's Defense appropriations bill.

The committee members, which included Armed Services subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), said they would also be putting the $250 million in this year’s Defense authorization bill, which approves Pentagon spending and sets defense policy.

The funding the lawmakers are discussing represents a $150 million increase from the money that was included for the site in the House’s 2013 authorization bill.

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While Tuesday’s letter was addressed to Young, the biggest obstacle for Republicans may be Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has been skeptical of the need for a third missile defense shield on the East Coast. The Pentagon currently has interceptors in Alaska and California.

The East Coast missile defense site is poised to be one of the most contentious political battles in this year’s Defense authorization bill, which the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will mark up in June.

Republicans have renewed their push for the East Coast site after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced earlier this year that additional ground-based interceptors would be deployed to Alaska in response to threats from North Korea.

While last year’s attempt to fund the new missile defense site came mostly from the House, Senate Republicans indicated they would be pushing for the East Coast shield, too.

Senate Democrats opposed the House’s efforts last year, and no funding was included in the Senate’s authorization bill.

In conference committee, the Armed Services committees included an environmental impact study to examine three potential sites.

Proponents of an East Coast site say it is necessary to guard against the potential threat of ballistic missiles coming from Iran.

“It is incumbent upon the Congress, in the absence of aggressive action by the president, to deploy an East Coast site to defend the United States from the rising threat of ballistic missile development from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Young.

Critics, however, say Iran has not developed the capability of long-range missiles that could strike U.S. soil.

Levin has also questioned connecting North Korea’s threats to the need for an East Coast site.

"It's quite the opposite," he said in March.

“People who have [already] reached their conclusions" on a East Coast shield "need to step back a little" and see what steps the Pentagon has already taken to mitigate the threat, Levin said.