Dear Members and Friends,
In Washington DC, addressing the United States Congress in committee hearings to the House and to the Senate, our nation’s two Combatant Commanders with the responsibility and the command of North America and the Pacific provided testimony on the defense of these regions from North Korean ballistic missiles. General Lori Robinson is the Commander of NORTHCOM and Admiral Harry Harris is the Commander of PACOM. The United States Congressional Members representing the United States public specifically asked questions on confidence, reliability and operational ballistic missile defense systems protecting the United States population and territory from the North Korean ballistic missile threat today. Listed below are the specific quotes on questions from our Congressional Members and the responses by General Robinson and Admiral Harris from the hearings that transpired over the past two days.
Senator Reed of Rhode Island: When you say you can defend the nation against missile attack, you’re referring to a limited missile attack by a country, such as North Korea correct?
General Robinson of NORTHCOM: Yes sir.
Senator Reed: You’re not making a generalized statement, correct?
General Robinson: No sir, I would defer that to General Hyten.
Senator Fischer of Nebraska: I happen to believe that our missile defense system provides, really an immense capability and the expansion of that system is going to help us to continue to defend the homeland as this threat increases. Yet over the weekend, General, we saw the New York Times editorial board published a column titled, “The Dangerous Illusion of Missile Defense.” And in it they described our homeland defense system as “riddled with flaws” and repeated, what I considered an old tired claim, that tests were not conducted under realistic conditions. So to be clear, do you have confidence in the ability of the GMD system to defend the United States from a North Korean ballistic missile attack today?
General Robinson: Ma’am, I’m 100% confident in my ability to defend the United States of America.
Senator Fischer: And do you believe the actions taken by congress and this administration to expand the systems capacity and to improve discrimination will enhance NORTHCOM’s ability to defend the homeland against a ballistic missile attack in the future?
General Robinson: Well, ma’am, I would tell you that I appreciate the above threshold reprogramming for the capacity that we gave and I think that’s helpful. Adding on to that the RKV, in addition to continued work which we need to do with the discriminating radars. Between all of those three things, I think we continue to outpace everybody and it gives me more and more confidence, continued confidence of our ability to defend the United States.
Senator Warren of Massachusetts: As the missile threat from North Korea increases, it seems it is very important that we accurately assess our missile defense. However, actual tests are expensive, but predictive modeling is a cost-effective way of testing our systems. Would predictive modeling improve your confidence in GMD?
General Robinson: Modeling and simulation is as good as what you put in. But live-testing is also important. When you can put the live part in the modeling system, that gives a better well-rounded look at our systems capability. But I want to say again today, that I am confident in our ability to defend the United States. So, I do think it’s important, not just the live testing and simulations, but all of that together to make us understand where we’re going.
To watch the hearing with General Robinson, CLICK HERE.
Representative Rogers of Alabama: In addition to Japan and Korea, what other countries do you think could and should be contributing to PACOM’s regional ballistic missile defense?
Admiral Harris of PACOM: I think that you know when you look at the threat factor from North Korea, I think that South Korea and Japan are key to that. I think other countries could contribute to that, if they want, but I don’t want to speak for them. Again, I think it’s a function of a threat vector and their capabilities and their own budgets and whether they can afford that type of system.
Representative Rogers: Are you aware of any countries in that region that have expressed interest in foreign military sales of BMD systems of potential development ability?
Admiral Harris: Not to the degree that they’ve gone ahead with LORs and LOAs and that acquisition stuff.
Representative Rogers: Assuming that they two Aegis Ashore sites that Japan has begun the process of procuring and developing are complete and in place, what effect will that have on your Aegis ships in the region?
Admiral Harris: It will relieve some of the pressure that I face and the Navy faces, that the Pacific Fleet faces in BMD.
Representative Rogers: How would that manifest itself?
Admiral Harris: Well, because we have ships that are underway to help the Japanese defend their homeland as part of our treaty obligations and defend the Americans that are living there.
Representative Rogers: I understand, but what will you be able to do that you can’t do now?
Admiral Harris: I will be able to take that ship off station and put it somewhere else.
Representative Rogers: Like where?
Admiral Harris: Like wherever it’s needed at the moment, you know like South China Sea, in the Indian Ocean, in the Philippine Sea, wherever I might need that ship. Right now, one of the obligations I have is a ship off of Guam for the defense of our homeland and a ship in the Sea of Japan that helps in the defense of Japan.
Representative Rogers: Are you confident that the system you’ve got in place today to protect Guam, Hawaii, and the mainland is adequate?
Admiral Harris: I believe it’s adequate for the threat we face today, but I think that much more needs to be done for the threat that we will face in two to three years. For example, I have advocated for the defense of Hawaii radar, because I think that radar is essential for the threat that we’re going to face from North Korea in three to four years. I believe that one of our older platforms, the SBX, the sea-based x-band radar that’s on that old oil platform, that you know that’s only good when it’s underway, and a defense wall radar would allow me to cover the gaps when that ship is not underway or in maintenance. So that’s important.
Representative Rogers: Is there anything more we need to be doing for Guam?
Admiral Harris: I’m all for Guam, sir. It’s part of us, right? I believe that the THAAD system that’s there, the fact that it’s a PCS, it’s a permanent station there now is important. And I want to continue to resource that.
Representative Rogers: But there’s nothing in addition that you think at the present we need to be doing?
Admiral Harris: At the present time, no sir.
Representative Lamborn of Colorado: We really want to protect Guam, we also want to protect Hawaii. That goes absolutely without saying, that’s so critical. What can you say about Aegis Ashore in Hawaii?
Admiral Harris: So, I’m not smart enough to zero in on a system for Hawaii. What I have advocated for in the past, and thanks to the Congress we’re going to see some of that laid out in the next year or two, and the first is the defense of Hawaii radar. And then the next step, I’ve also advocated for is a study, through MDA, Missile Defense Agency, to determine what the best missile defense itself is for Hawaii. There are a number of options, Aegis Ashore is one, THAAD is another one, perhaps a ground-based interceptor capability for Hawaii. I think all of those should be looked at. I think today, from the threat that we face in Hawaii from North Korea, Aegis Ashore and THAAD might not be the best platforms for Hawaii, given the trajectory and the geometries of the missiles that are launched. I’m confident in our ground-based systems today to intercept and protect Hawaii and those ground-based systems are in California and Alaska, but I think in the years ahead it would do us well to at least study the possibility of putting some kind of interceptor capability in Hawaii. Meanwhile, I’m pleased with the defense of Hawaii radar.
Representative Bordallo of Guam: In the NDS, the DoD calls for investment in layered missile defense from North Korea threats. Secretary Mattis confirmed before this committee last week that the department will continue to bolster missile defense of Guam and in the Pacific to keep pace with the ballistic missile threat. From your perspective as the combatant commander and considering PACOM’s number one priority of defending the homeland and its citizens, do you feel you have adequate ballistic missile defense capabilities to defend forward deployed military assets, our allies in the region, as well as all Americans without fail?
Admiral Harris: I do, as I mentioned before ma’am, I do believe we have that capability today in 2018, but given what we think the North Korea capability might be in terms of their missiles in three or four years or in the early 2020s, I think we must continue to improve our missile defenses and that’s why I’m an advocate for the defense of Hawaii radar system and I’ve advocated for a study to look at whether we should put ground-based interceptors or something like that in Hawaii. And I think we must continue to resource and improve the capabilities of the THAAD system that we have in Guam as well as our BMD ships that are in the Pacific, most particularly in Japan.
To watch the hearing with Admiral Harris, CLICK HERE.