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Congress moving to fortify ballistic missile defenses

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Warned that Iran and North Korea are developing medium-range ballistic missiles, Congress is moving to strengthen the nation's still-modest defense against such systems.

The House voted Monday night to authorize a $147 million program for the current fiscal year to beef up radar systems and to speed development of the latest generation of Patriot missiles, the PAC-3 missile.The bill would authorize the program, not actually pay for it. But the Senate last week put $151 million into a midyear spending bill to finance the program, and the House version of that spending bill comes before the House Tuesday.

The program is on a far less grand scale than the space-based "Star Wars" defense once advocated by President Reagan to protect against long-range ballistic missiles, or even the missile-defense system urged in 1996 by Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole.

But it has what those measures lacked: broad bipartisan support.