The House Armed Services Committee (HASC), chaired by Congressman Adam Smith – Representative from Washington’s 9th District, held a hearing today on a “Security Update on the Korean Peninsula,” with witnesses Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Lieutenant General David Allvin, Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J5) for the Joint Staff.
Here are a few key quotes from the hearing on the status of United States missile defense for its homeland against North Korea.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here and for what you are doing for our country. Given the growing North Korean ballistic missile threat to our homeland, I’d like to ask some questions about our missile defense. We’ve asked about regional threats, but to the homeland there is also a growing threat. So Secretary Rood, according to NORTHCOM, while we can be confident in our current GMD posture to counter a North Korean threat for the next five to six years, at the rate North Korea is developing their ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] capabilities, we must begin assuming increased risk around 2025 and beyond. Do you agree with that assessment? And if so, whatever you can say in this open session what is the Administration’s plan to mitigate that risk?” – Congressman Doug Lamborn, Representative from Colorado’s 5th District.
“First I do share that assessment with NORTHCOM. We do have to watch the North Korean missile program and their associated other special weapons programs because the rate of progress is very substantial and it continues. I think that what you will see in the President’s budget submission that will come forward is, and obviously it has not been submitted to the Congress yet, but I think what you will see is a continued support for our missile defense program, that’s embodied in the policy document called the Missile Defense Review that the President unveiled and states very clearly in there our objective is to prevent North Korea from having the ability to coerce or threaten the United States credibly with their offensive missile force and commits us to having a defense sufficient to deal with that threat.” – Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“Okay, thank you. I would like to drill down a little bit more and talk about an underlayer. According to warfighters at NORTHCOM and the engineers and scientists at [Office of] Research and Engineering, an underlayer composed of the SM-3 IIA or extended range THAAD would be an excellent complement to our current GMD and help address the growing threat of not just of North Korea but Iran also. So do you believe an underlayer would supplement our homeland missile defense and help mitigate the risk that we’ve talked about that is growing beyond 2025?” – Congressman Doug Lamborn, Representative from Colorado’s 5th District.
“I do think such an underlayer can make a substantial contribution to the defense of the United States. It’s not a replacement for longer range missile defenses, which have a much greater capability through things such as the Ground-Based Interceptors presently deployed in Alaska for a much larger range, longer battlespace if you will. But certainly an underlayer can make an important contribution to defense of smaller areas, still very large areas, but smaller than that provided by the Ground-Based Interceptors in Alaska.” – Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“And to help make this supplement come about and become real, can you explain why the SM-3 IIA test against an ICBM target, planned for later this year, would be so helpful to mitigate the risk posed by North Korea’s ICBM threat?” – Congressman Doug Lamborn, Representative from Colorado’s 5th District.
“That, as you mentioned Congressman, that test is planned, the Missile Defense Agency will conduct it to validate what the analysis presently shows that the SM-3 IIA would have a capability against longer range missiles if enabled by all the right sensors and in the right situation. And so that is an important demonstration or validation of the capability that we already believe is resident in the system. But having been through a number of test cycles, its always important to be on the test range and validate that sir.” – Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“Well, I am glad to hear that because as you pointed out, this would be a supplement, not a substitute, but a supplement to what we need to beef up in our ICBM missile defense program.” – Congressman Doug Lamborn, Representative from Colorado’s 5th District.
“My last question is about shifting over to Guam. INDO-PACOM has indicated they like to increase our missile defense capability in Guam. What would that look like and what do we as a Committee need to be doing this year to facilitate whatever that capability would be?” – Congressman Mike Rogers, Representative from Alabama’s 3rd District.
“Well presently, at Guam as you know there is a THAAD missile defense battery there. Some of the discussion has been whether that should be augmented or are there alternate ways to provide that sort of missile defense coverage. Again, THAAD, a very high demand asset, and so it’s a matter of compared to whats and there have been some proposals into INDO-PACOM has put forward for instance, whether you could have some sea-based, placed on land, Aegis Ashore capabilities and things of that nature.” – Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
“Do you layer that in addition to the THAAD or in place of the THAAD?” – Congressman Mike Rogers, Representative from Alabama’s 3rd District.
“Potentially as a replacement for. But a decision has not been made to do that. The present plan is for THAAD to continue in that role.” – Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.
It is clear to the United States Congress that our homeland missile defense against North Korean ICBMs is at risk beyond 2025 as the finite limitation of 44 Ground Based Interceptors (GBIs) in Alaska is not being increased until 2030 at the earliest with the development, testing, and deployment of the new Next Generation Interceptor (NGI). Many of the limited 44 GBIS are first generation interceptors and not all third generation GBIs that were recently proven on March 25, 2019 in a salvo intercept test that quantified the system with the DOD’s Department of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E). Adding to the GBI shortage is North Korea’s continual ICBM production along with a possible breakout of future Iranian ICBMs that would add tremendous stress and compound more risk to the limited number of 44 GBI interceptors. Increasing the reliability and efficiency of these 44 GBIs is paramount from the interceptor itself to the sensors it relies on for success. The radar being built in Alaska, the Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), and the proposed Homeland Defense Radars (HDR) in Hawaii and the Pacific will significantly enhance the GBI’s efficiency to defend the United States homeland and Hawaii with these limited 44 GBIs that can intercept at extreme distances during an ICBM’s midcourse phase of flight in space, which enable second and third shots if necessary for a near perfect defense.
To supplement these 44 GBIs, not replace them, is to add depth and intercept at shorter ranges in space and underneath the GBIs during an ICBM’s terminal phase of flight. Today there are existing interceptors that are in production and one will be tested this year against an ICBM target. These interceptors, the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA and the THAAD, all have inherent capability within their systems to intercept successfully an ICBM in descending order of the defended areas. THAAD interceptors are deployed today in seven THAAD batteries and the SM-3 Block IIA, which is being produced but not operationally deployed yet, will be on Aegis ships and Aegis Ashore sites that can serve as an underlayer to defend U.S. territory .
“I have 100% confidence, I don’t say 100% very often. I have a 100% confidence in those capabilities against North Korea but you have to understand, that’s what they are built for. They are built for North Korea, they’re not built for anything else. They are built for North Korea. They will work against North Korea, god forbid if we ever have to.” – General John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, responding to a question on current missile defense systems ability to defend the U.S. from North Korean missiles at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on January 17, 2020.
The United States has to provide its nation the best possible defense it can, deployed, layered, and operational in place against North Korea and Iran.
Defense wins against North Korea and Iran.
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