An MQ-1 Predator armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire missile flies a training mission. The Pentagon is seeking additional funding for the program. (US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — Two US Senate committees are holding up $7 million in new monies for the missile that has been America’s munition of choice against al-Qaida.
The Senate’s Armed Services Committee and Appropriations Defense subcommittee have deferred action on a Pentagon request to shift $7.1 million from other accounts into the Hellfire missile program.
Under US President Barack Obama, who took office in January 2009, the United States has conducted 328 armed drone strikes in Pakistan against al-Qaida, Taliban, Haqqani network leaders and operatives, according to the New America Foundation. Since 2009, the US also has carried out 110 drone strikes in Yemen, the think tank has concluded.
Lockheed Martin-made Hellfire missiles have been a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s armed drone campaign, fired from Predator and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft.
In its fiscal 2014 budget plan, the Pentagon proposed buying 550 of the air-to-surface missiles, according to Defense Department documents.
The Pentagon expected to need $58.5 million in fiscal 2014 for the Hellfire program, according to the DoD documents. The department, however, came up $7 million short.
In budget documents sent by both Senate committees to Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord dated in late July and obtained by Defense News, lawmakers said they still were reviewing some DoD funding-shift proposals.
In some cases, the panels said they want more information from the Pentagon about proposed budgetary reprogramming proposals. The four congressional defense panels must all approve reprogramming requests
That means the committees have not formally denied the Hellfire transfer, and the panels could eventually approve it once the Pentagon has answered their questions.
The proposed missile-funding shift was part of a broader Defense Department request to move $4.3 billion among a laundry list of accounts, the vast majority of which the four congressional defense panels signed off on. ■