The Obama administration has cut $6 billion from U.S. missile defense programs at a time when missile threats are growing, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces said Tuesday.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) also said in a speech that missile defense shortfalls likely contributed to the recent test failure of a long-range missile interceptor. He called for stepping up investment in strategic defenses.
“We must move out on aggressive development of next-generation missile defense capabilities, like space and directed energy,” Rogers said in a speech before the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville.
The Washington Free Beacon obtained a copy of his prepared remarks.
Rogers warned that missile threats are increasing as the U.S. defense budget is facing severe challenges.
Currently, the continental United States and overseas allies are protected against missile attack by 30 deployed long-range Ground Based Interceptors, 32 Navy ships armed with over 100 SM-3 IA interceptors, and two dozen advanced SM-3 IB interceptors, dozens of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors, and eight X-band missile defense radars deployed abroad.
“But this is not the time to stand still or regress as we have done in some respects lately: We continue to be challenged by increasing threats, budget scarcity, and the resulting test failures,” Rogers said.
Critics of missile defense who argue that the technology does not work or that it costs too much have been proven wrong by foreign nations that are buying U.S. missile defenses, Rogers said.
Israel also deployed its Iron Dome defense, developed with U.S. assistance, that countered numerous missile and rocket attacks on the Jewish state.
On budget cuts, Rogers noted that $487 billion was cut by the administration before the sequester cuts totaling $55 billion last year and another $55 billion in cuts set for fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.
According to Rogers, Obama cut $1.16 billion from missile defense—a 10 percent reduction—in his first budget as president and continued the reductions.
“Over four fiscal years, this underfunding adds up to almost $6 billion less than President Bush planned for missile defense; this represents a 16 percent reduction,” Rogers said.
“With regard to the nation’s only national missile defense program, it’s been cut in half in almost ten years.”
A missile defense interceptor test failure July 5 was the first time the system had been tested in five years. The delay and failure appear to have been the result of the spending cuts, Rogers said.
“Has anyone in this room ever kept a car in the garage for five years and then pulled it out one day and expected to go for a cross-country drive?” he said. “Of course not. Unfortunately, that’s what we’ve done with our only homeland defense system.”
Rogers called Iran’s missiles a “rising threat” based on recent advances by Tehran in space launch and longer-range ballistic missile developments.
Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, commander of the Colorado-based U.S. Northern Command, recently stated that “we should consider that Iran has a capability within the next few years of flight testing ICBM capable technologies” and that “the Iranians are intent on developing an ICBM.”
“Therefore, it’s not a question of if we recommit ourselves to missile defense. We must,” Rogers said.
To solve the problems, homeland missile defenses must be fixed by adding more resources and conducting another flight test this year of the Ground Based Interceptor, he said.
Other programs canceled by the Obama administration include a missile defense space sensor system, a next generation Aegis missile, the Airborne Laser, an airborne sensor system, and a next generation missile defense interceptor kill vehicle.
Rogers said he recently wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, along with two Republican senators, to express concerns that “a decision, or a gamble if you like, had been made to cut off and slowly strangle our homeland missile defense system.”
The administration “lost this gamble” and now realizes that homeland defenses are needed, Rogers said
“But, between 2009 and 2013, we lost time while our adversaries continued their threatening work,” Rogers said. “As a consequence, we have lost time, and in missile defense, time is defense.”
Rogers called for immediately beginning work on a next-generation Ground Based Interceptor and moving ahead in building an East Coast Missile Defense base in addition to current bases in Alaska and California.
The East Coast site will provide “an added layer of missile defense coverage to the Eastern Third of the United States, just as the Poland-based Third Site would have done and the Poland-based Aegis Ashore battery would have done with the block IIB missile,” Rogers said.
Additionally, space sensors and directed energy weapons are needed to meet the challenges posed by decoy warheads designed to thwart missile defense sensors, he said, including the Airborne Laser that was killed in 2009. The laser, onboard a Boeing 747, successfully knocked out two test missiles in a demonstration.
“We must move out on aggressive development of next-generation missile defense capabilities, like space and directed energy,” Rogers said.
While cutting missile defenses, the Obama administration launched a new plan called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, designed to protect the United States and Europe from an Iranian missile attack.
A recent military intelligence report said Iran will have a missile capable of hitting the United States by 2015.
Still, the administration has yet to provide Congress with a budget estimate for the European missile defense plan that includes bases in Poland and Romania.
And in March, the Pentagon canceled the final phase of the program that included a new interceptor that is the only element of the system capable of defending the U.S. homeland.
Rogers says he is worried that cuts and program delays will make the European missile defense system unaffordable.
Without the fourth phase that was canceled in March, “I fear there is now a choice between defending ourselves and defending our allies.”
Rogers predicted that unless funding levels are increased in the next two years, the administration would be forced to tell the Europeans for the third time since 2009 that the United States is changing its missile defense plans there.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the administration to pull the rug out from under the Poles and Romanians yet again,” he said. “But I don’t see how we avoid it without a significant infusion of resources into our missile defense system.”
Rogers noted that President George W. Bush paved the way for missile defenses by abandoning the 1974 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Moscow. The pact limited strategic defenses of both the United States and the then-Soviet Union.
Quoting a former defense secretary, Rogers said the problem with treaties with Russia is that “we build, they build. We stop, they build.”
“It’s one of those historical ironies that the Russians, who scream the loudest about our missile defenses, like to ignore, and like us to ignore, that they keep on building them,” he said, noting Moscow’s expansion and modernization of its missile defenses that included nuclear-armed interceptors around Moscow.
China also opposes U.S. missile defenses but recently conducted a test of its missile defense system, he said.