FAIRBANKS (AP) -- New missile defense testing sites in Alaska appear to be on track for inclusion in the Defense Department's annual spending bill.
A committee working out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill has only minor issues to resolve when it comes to the largest component of the nation's missile defense program -- the so-called ''ground-based mid-course'' system.
The conference committee, of which Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens is a member, is meeting this week.
Both the House and Senate bills provide about $3.2 billion for research and development of the mid-course missile defense program, in which missiles launched from silos would try to intercept incoming enemy missiles.
The money includes $786 million for development of a new North Pacific ''test bed,'' which is expected to include several projects in Alaska.
Officials with the Balistic Missile Defense Organization have said they want the money in part to build five interceptor silos at Fort Greely, 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, next summer for testing.
The military has no plans to launch interceptors from there during the testing phase. Rather, it wants to conduct tests from the state-owned rocket launch facility on Kodiak Island. Upgrades would be needed there for the tests.
The test bed money also may cover the cost of a new radar installation on Shemya Island, though some have said the Pentagon has dropped that location in favor of Hawaii. Lehner said no decision has been made on the location of the radar.
Under the Senate bill, the U.S. Army would get $7.2 million to spend on range safety at Kodiak. And $4 million would go to Fort Greely for ''sustainment and modernization of infrastructure.''
Spending on all U.S. missile defense programs could reach $8.3 billion this fiscal year under the Senate bill. About $7 billion is specifically directed to missile defense, while the other $1.3 billion could go to either missile defense or counter-terrorism efforts, at the president's discretion.
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