Yesterday, Admiral Fallon, currently head of Pacific Command, and nominated to become head of Central Command, mentioned in his testimony about the importance of missile defense at the Senate Armed Services Committee Confirmation Hearing on January 30, 2007. Admiral Fallon said that he would emphasize greater missile defense when he becomes commander of Central Command.
Fallon was quoted as saying there was no doubt that North Korea and Iran are exchanging ballistic missile technology with Iran shaping its military to deny U.S. aircraft carriers, precision strike and submarine capabilities in the Gulf, or at least to keep them at a distance. We should continue to develop a regional security framework, and with our partners in the Gulf to deter Iranian aggression and protect our common interests. This framework can include security assistance, missile defense, joint exercises and information sharing.
This declaration by Admiral Fallon of the need for missile defense in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in front of our Senate Arms Service Committee is significant and points out that there is an immediate need for the deployment of missile defense systems to protect U.S. forces in the region and to deter Iran’s use of its ballistic missiles to threaten or coerce the Persian Gulf and its bordering countries. Admiral Fallon’s current responsibility as the Head of Pacific Command which spans a multitude of countries on the Pacific Rim including North Korea brings forward his unique expertise and experience as our country’s foremost military leader on dealing with rouge nations with ballistic missiles. This skill both as diplomat amongst many diverse countries and as a war fighter that uses deterrence makes Admiral Fallon a solid choice for our Combat Commander of Central Command which spans the Middle East.
Currently, our Nation does not have the capability to fulfill the missile defense requirement that Admiral Fallon needs to protect our Armed Forces from Iran.
The seven U.S. sea based Aegis SM-3 missile defense equipped ships as of February this year have as a total of less then two dozen missiles and all of the ships are based in the Pacific focused on North Korea. A second sea based missile defense system, the SM2 Block 4 that provides terminal defense to small areas similar to the land based Patriot 3 system is not scheduled to deploy until the end of 2008. Another comparable missile defense system which is land based would be the Theater High Area Altitude Defense System (THAAD) which is still going through testing in Hawaii and the earliest it could be ready is at the end of 2008.
It is of merit that the same Senate Armed Service Committee considering the confirmation of Admiral Fallon to head the Central Command should also clearly understand the lack of missile defense for the protection of our forces and the need to acquire quickly missile defense for our deployed forces in the Persian Gulf.
We are living in dangerous times with Iran and North Korea wanting to threaten, expand and proliferate their ballistic missile technology. When we hear our future Combat Commander for the Middle East in Senate testimony, it brings to light the missile threat from Iran to the 152,000 American men and women he would be responsible for.
We as a nation must act and provide him with the defenses he needs for the safety of those American lives that are deployed in the Middle East.