Testimony from this week’s hearing at the Strategic Forces Subcommittee validates that missile defense is moving significantly from ideology to practicality, as Madam Chairwoman Ellen Tauscher clearly stated in her opening statement. “The protection of our nation and credibility of our last line of defense against a missile strike is not a political issue.” With further clarity and articulation, the Chairwoman stated with command of the room, “In the final analysis, we as Congress and the Administration are all responsible for protecting the American people and our deployed forces against missile threats.”
In practicality terms, those that were testifying stated unequivocally the threat to our nation and world from ballistic missiles is increasing by numbers and capabilities. Lt. Gen. Trey Obering stated, “In 2006, there were about 100 foreign ballistic missile launches around the world. This year to date, the pace of testing is about twice that of last year-a trend reflecting the determination of many countries to acquire these capabilities.” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategic Capabilities Brian Green stated, “Not only is the threat from the numbers and capabilities of ballistic missiles increasing, but the group of countries possessing ballistic missiles includes some of the world’s most threatening and least responsible regimes, such as North Korea and Iran.”
Differences of tactics on applying practical solutions to these threats became apparent as Chairwoman Tauscher endorsed and called for mobility in Missile Defense systems for the reasons of getting more bang for your buck and being more efficient countering the mobility of the threat than fixed sites. With this belief, the Chairwoman clearly focused on the practical need for the third site which would be permanently fixed. Her tipping point was manifested in the lack of NATO consensus for having a third site in Europe.
In response, Lt. Gen. Trey Obering stated that having mobile missile defense systems is attractive and that MDA has and will continue to invest heavily in those systems, however these mobile systems take advantage of the fixed systems which are mostly sensors and radars as well as the small number of Ground Based Interceptors to perform as an integrated layered defense. This allows our military to “surge” the mobile systems more efficiently and effectively to trouble areas of the world at times of crisis as the reliance on fixed systems 24 hours, 7 days a week can provide the foundation coverage.
The practicality of the third site in Europe was revealed by Lt. Gen. Trey Obering as a cost effective solution, as well offering more coverage capability. To provide mobile coverage of Europe would entail 4 to 5 Aegis Ballistic Missile Capable Ships permanently on site and at least the same number of THAAD batteries. To have on station 4 to 5 ships, the Navy would have to have a rotation of between 12 and 15 ships in play. The cost for this would be considerably more than the construction and maintenance of the European third site.?? It was also pointed out that the areas protected by mobile systems have much less coverage then would the fixed site.
NATO consensus needs to be pursued as Mr. Brian Green pointed out consensus takes time and NATO as a group does not provide systems, individual countries within NATO provide specific systems.?? Time is a factor as Lt. Gen. Trey Obering testified, “Our intelligence community assesses that Iran would be able to develop an ICBM before 2015”. Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell magnified the need for the third site by stating to the Committee that the third site is essential to defending our homeland. It is of note that Mr. Green stated that we have missile defense partnerships with the following NATO nations – United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands, and Poland.
Though the debate will continue on the practical solutions, the bipartisan end game must be “build it so that they will not come.”