The House Armed Services Committee has authorized funding for an East Coast missile defense site and directed the Missile Defense Agency to conduct environmental studies of potential locations for it, according to the summary of H.R. 1960, the committee’s version of the Fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill. The panel approved the legislation on June 6. “Defending against ballistic or theater missile attack is an important priority for US national security,” states the summary. In addition, the bill prohibits the Defense Department from removing any missile defense hardware from East Asia and requires the Pentagon to complete an analysis of missile defense capabilities on Guam. The legislation also prevents the Air Force from “prematurely” divesting its RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft and prohibits another round of BRAC, which Pentagon leaders have repeatedly said is necessary in light of the ongoing budget crisis. However, it does provide funds to restore Air Force and Army flying hours and facilities sustainment. It also requires additional oversight of the F-35 program and seeks an independent assessment of the strike fighter’s software program and lifecycle sustainment costs.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.