Representative Michael Turner, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times in which he makes the case for restoring funding for missile defense.
President Barack Obama cut missile defense spending. He dropped plans to deploy missile interceptors and radar to Poland and the Czech Republic, respectively. He reduced interceptors in Alaska. However, Obama is looking to expand missile defense capabilities in the Persian Gulf. Is the administration committed to beefing up defenses? Turner says that depends on the FY 2011 budget.
“The administrations policy cannot be funded if the missile defense budget remains flat,” he writes. “There are simply no more future programs like Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Multiple Kill Vehicle to take money from. Unless the Administration decides to further cut the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, take resources from critical programs such as testing and targets, or perhaps slow roll the implementation of its new policy, it cannot follow through on its stated commitments. A better solution is to restore top line funding for missile defense.”
In a move that seemed impulsive, it appeared the Obama administration scaled back Bush-era missile defense policy just for the sake of scaling back. For example, reducing interceptors in Alaska and California has left the U.S. vulnerable to long-range ballistic missiles and jeopardized the GMD system. Turner opposed these cuts and notes that the Pentagon reached similar conclusions about GMD a short time later.
“For the foreseeable future, GMD is the sole missile defense capability to protect the U.S. homeland from a rogue missile attack. So while the administrations most recent changes are welcome, they must be followed by continued support and funding in the budget.”
In the area of European and theater missile defense, the administration is only now realizing the need for more, not less, funding for these programs. For example, the Obama administration dropped previous plans in Central Europe to focus on increasing “cost-effective” sea- and land-based missile interceptors, but things aren’t as simple as they seemed.
“[A]s details have emerged,” Turner writes, “officials now acknowledge it will cost more, necessitate additional missile defense-capable ships, and require significant investments to develop new technical concepts. Full coverage of Europe and further protection of the United States comes later than previously planned and depends not only on new technologies but also on new host nation agreements. Securing some of these agreements may prove difficult as Russian officials are now grumbling about key aspects of the new approach such as the longer-range Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block II interceptor.”
The bottom line is that any one of the 28 countries that have ballistic missiles could hit the U.S., intentionally or not, and our missile defense program must be fully funded and flexible enough to deal with these threats. This week’s budget debates will reveal how committed Obama is to protecting the U.S.