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Gates says budget cuts don't leave Alaska, Hawaii vulnerable

FORT GREELY — On a tour of this remote Alaska base where three-stage interceptor missiles are primed for quick launch, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said his proposed $1.2 billion cut from missile defense next year doesn't leave Alaska or Hawaii vulnerable to an attack from North Korea.

Gates, invited to Alaska by Sen. Mark Begich, said the administration intends to focus on perfecting missile defense technologies that show promise of working, like the ground-based interceptors at Greely, while abandoning others that are more science fiction than reality, like airborne laser weapons.

"I know that we have this capability, and as it becomes more effective with each passing day it should be a source of comfort for the American people in an uncertain world," Gates told reporters after emerging from the depths of a 70-foot missile silo with Begich, a Democrat from Anchorage.

The cuts, proposed for the next fiscal year, would halt construction of a 20-silo missile field at Greely – the third at the facility – and stop procurement of new interceptors. The base currently has 16 interceptors deployed in its two completed fields with 10 more missiles scheduled for delivery for the remaining empty silos. That's 14 fewer than were originally planned for the site.

But Gates said there's still about $1 billion in the budget for the ground-based system at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California plus related radar and control centers.

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