Kyl Warns U.S. Not Investing Enough in Homeland Missile Defense

WASHINGTON -- The United States is not investing sufficient resources in homeland missile defense even as it pours billions of dollars into developing missile shields to defend distant allies, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued on Thursday.

The lawmaker noted that under the Obama administration, requests for annual funding for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency have gone from a high of $9.2 billion in 2009 down to $7.8 billion requested for fiscal 2013. The Pentagon branch manages the large majority of U.S. research, development and acquisition of antiballistic missile technologies.

“I don’t see any trends that this is going to be reversed,” said Kyl, a prominent Senate voice on nuclear arms matters who is leaving Capitol Hill after choosing not to run for re-election.

“I’m disappointed, very much, in the reductions to the missile defense budget over the last four years, much of which has come at the expense of our homeland defense as well as the development of next-generation missile defense systems,” he told a forum sponsored by the American Foreign Policy Council.

The Obama administration in its first term focused much of its antimissile efforts on gaining domestic and international buy-in for a plan to deploy increasingly sophisticated sea- and land-based interceptors around Europe for the stated purposes of countering a feared medium-range ballistic missile strike from Iran. To a lesser extent, the administration has also sought to develop regional missile shields with allies in the Persian Gulf and East Asia.

In touting its European plan, the administration has pointed out the continent’s geographic position leaves it more vulnerable to Iran’s Shahab missiles than the United States. Officials also note the European missile shield is intended to protect deployed U.S. forces and to ultimately have a capacity against ICBMs that might reach the United States.

Congress’ official research arm this month projected Iran to be years away from having the technical capability to use high-altitude missiles in strikes on the United States. “It is increasingly uncertain whether Iran will be able to achieve an ICBM capability by 2015,” as some have warned, the Congressional Research Service concluded.

Kyl, however, said there was still a need to develop stronger missile defenses to defend the mainland United States and pointed to North Korea’s successful launch on Wednesday of a long-range rocket into space. The technical feat has significant implications for the Stalinist state’s development of an ICBM.

“I’ve been particularly concerned with the focus away from homeland defense more toward regional defense. … I want to help our NATO allies to be sure but our first priority is to the United States of America and I see a shift very much away from that,” the veteran lawmaker said.

Kyl said his concerns with the state of U.S. homeland antimissile capabilities center around three areas -- the decline in federal funding, decisions to limit the number of interceptors in the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, and the lack of research into next-generation capabilities.

The GMD system is the United States’ primary defense against ICBM attacks. It is comprised of 30 silo-based long-range interceptors fielded in California and Alaska and an accompanying network of early warning radars.

Kyl faulted the Obama administration for “drastically” reducing yearly funding for the system to about $1 billion compared to an annual average of $2.5 billion during the second George W. Bush administration. Those funding reductions were tied to a 2009 Pentagon decision to scale back earlier plans to field a total of 54 GMD interceptors.

 “Over the next five years, we’ve got about $20 billion programmed for regional defenses compared with only $4 billion for national defenses, so that gives you perspective,” he said.

Kyl raised doubts over the administration’s commitment to the Standard Missile 3 Block 2B interceptor -- a theoretical weapon that is envisioned as having the ability to destroy first-generation ICBMs in their early stage of flight. While the official White House plan still calls for fielding the interceptor in Poland by 2020, the Pentagon announcement last month that it was delaying by up to nine months a call for contractor proposals raised new questions about the prospects for the Block 2B.

The senator said he was “beginning to see the signs of the administration backing away from what they were crowing about [with Block 2B] when they said that’s the great substitute” for the 10 GMD interceptors that had been planned for fielding in Poland under a now discarded Bush administration plan for Europe-based missile defense.

“We’re relying on 20-year old ground-based interceptor technology. When the administration canceled the multiple-kill vehicle program, we basically turned our back on future modernization," Kyl added.

 

December 13, 2012
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WASHINGTON -- The United States is not investing sufficient resources in homeland missile defense even as it pours billions of dollars into developing missile shields to defend distant allies, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) argued on Thursday.

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