“Where is the Beef?”

September 29, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

“The protection of the United States from the threat of ballistic missile attack is a critical national security priority” was a statement released by the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates earlier this year. Secretary Gate’s statement was part of the introduction of the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR), the Department of Defense’s current policy on missile defense. That policy lists six priorities with the number one priority being “The United States will continue to defend the homeland against the threat of limited ballistic missile attack.”

Of the $8.24 billion or 1.2% of the 2011 Defense budget requested by the President for the Missile Defense Agency, 16.3% or $1.35 billion of it goes towards the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system that is responsible for protecting our homeland against ballistic missile attacks.

The primary long-range limited ballistic missile threats to the U.S. homeland are seen to be from North Korea and Iran. Both countries continue to test and develop the range and quality of their ballistic missiles. The GMD system would also have the inherent capability of defending the U.S. homeland against future missile proliferation from rogue states as well as an accidental launch from Russia, China, or other countries with nuclear long-range ballistic missile capabilities.

Next month the 30th Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) is scheduled to be placed into a silo at Fort Greely, Alaska. Thirty is the total number of operational, deployed GBI’s the Secretary of Defense and the President want in place for the protection of the U.S. homeland against a limited ballistic missile threat. The previous President and the same Secretary of Defense had requested over 50 GBIs for this same mission.

The GMD system consists of thirty GBIs deployed in California and Alaska, with sensors and radars placed west towards North Korea; these are all connected to a command and fire control system in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The GMD is the baseline architecture that was built and made operational for a defense capability against a limited North Korean long-range ballistic missile threat to the U.S. homeland, including Hawaii and Alaska.

In order for the GMD system to equally protect the U.S homeland with confidence, including the eastern U.S. from Iran and threats to the east, the Department of Defense must develop, test and deploy an eastern architecture of sensors, radars and forward based interceptors. Also, the GMD system must prove out and test its capability to provide much greater confidence so that there is equal trust in each of the thirty interceptors. There has not been a successful GBI test in almost two years and the new version of the kill vehicle that is carried on most of the GBIs has not yet had a successful intercept test.

Additionally, replacement, modernizing and upkeep of all the GBIs must be continued to give confidence in the system as these systems age and are stationed in harsh environments. With continued robust testing of the GBI needed and the upcoming termination of the first missile field at Fort Greely, which holds the six oldest GBIs, it would seem that between now and 2030 a lot more than the five GBIs that are being requested by the administration will be needed.

The GMD system must shoot three or four interceptors in order to gain high confidence that it will intercept a single incoming ballistic missile threatening our homeland; it does not have a complete architecture to defend our homeland against Iran. Where is the full and needed support behind a system that is labeled “a critical national security priority” by the Secretary of Defense?

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