By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON For the next two years, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, will be the top Democratic member of a key defense subcommittee dealing with development of the controversial missile defense program pushed by President Bush.
The switch to the top of the military research and development subcommittee is a move up for Abercrombie, who was the ranking Democrat on the military personnel panel in the last Congress.
The subcommittee deals with basic scientific research involving the development of weapons systems and support equipment. Its considered the place where military contractors get their feet in the door to develop new systems with long-term, lucrative deals.
Those contractors who want more business can also be a potent source of campaign contributions for panel members.
Besides missile defense, the subcommittee assignment has implications for Hawaiis Pacific Missile Range Facility and for the Army transformation program, which is developing lighter equipment for more mobile.
Members of the panels staff say there is a wide range of views on missile defense proposals within the subcommittee. Most members, including Abercrombie, have supported the idea in general but disagree on details.
Abercrombie will remain a member of the military installations and facilities subcommittee, which handles construction projects.
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