Dear Members and Friends,
This past Tuesday, the American public changed the makeup of the House of Representatives. One of the seven pledges of the new Republican majority is to increase missile defense protection for the United States homeland.
This Administration, along with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, cut $1.3 billion from missile defense when they first came into power. Most of the cuts were directed towards the U.S. homeland missile defense system and its modernization. Earlier this year, Secretary Gates stated in the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) that homeland defense from ballistic missiles was this Administration’s number one priority with respect to missile defense.
Over the past two years the focus and attention of the Administration and Congress has been on the BMDR’s lower listed missile defense priority, the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA). The PAA focuses on protecting our European allies and American forces based in Europe from the future Iranian long- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threat.
The Administration has been particularly protective of the PAA in congressional testimony with regards to its strategic importance, true cost to the taxpayers, and what its deployed configuration will be. The new House of Representatives will demand accurate, timely and thorough answers that have not yet been delivered by the Administration in order for authorization of the PAA to move forward.
One of the most pressing questions from the new Congress will be if the PAA will have the ability to protect the U.S. homeland with a developed and tested missile interceptor before an Iranian ballistic threat matures.
The ballistic missile threat to the U.S. homeland, in both intent and future capability, comes from North Korea’s potentially mobile land-based inter-continental ballistic missiles and the development of Iranian intermediate- and long-range ballistic missiles. High ranking Department of Defense officials have repeatedly testified in congressional hearings this year that the U.S. homeland could be threatened by an Iranian ballistic missile as soon as 2015.
Technical, testing and engineering issues in the production of U.S. homeland missile defense systems need to be addressed in order to make the systems more effective and efficient. There needs to be sustained confidence across all missile defense architecture to face the threat from North Korea and Iran equally. This should provide common ground for the Administration, Senate and House of Representatives, regardless of political party or persuasion.
It is clear from the BMDR and the current Administration’s emphasis on missile defense that sustained funding and support for missile defense will continue; despite the cuts the defense budget will face with the new congressional focus on fiscal restraint.
Even with these challenges, missile defense still provides one of the best opportunities for co-operation between the President, Senate and House of Representatives; as nine out of ten Americans support missile defense to protect their homeland.