U.S. Lawmakers Pass Funding For Polish Missile Defense Site

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that includes money for construction next year on a site for missile-defense interceptors in Poland but far less than the White House wants.

A main U.S. Defense Department spending bill that included the defense system in Europe also would fund fully the request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, opening the door for the next president to begin building the system.

The bill is a boost for a project that has been a serious source of tension in the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Russia.

In a concession by House Democrats, the bill would also allow the U.S. Defense Department to begin buying some parts for the interceptors planned for Poland. It would, however, require the U.S. Defense Department to demonstrate through a series of tests that the interceptors could work before they would be bought and deployed.

The concession could mitigate possible delays in deploying the system. Some proponents of the system have warned that the testing requirement could cause the defense department to miss by years its goal of deploying the system by 2013. The Whote House argues that a quick deployment is necessary to counter threats from Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear enrichment programs.

The missile-defense funding approval Wednesday came in a $612 billion military authorization bill that also must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president before it would take effect. A Senate vote is expected this week.

The bill would cut the administration's 2009 funding request for the European project by almost $246 million out of $712 million. It would also cut the request for construction of the Polish site by $90 million out a total of about $133 million.