Flexible No Longer

House leader calls on Kerry to disclose missile defense offer to Russians

Mike Rogers /
April 25, 2013

A senior House Republican this week called on Secretary of State John Kerry to make public a U.S. offer of cooperation with Russia on missile defenses made recently in Moscow.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, stated in a letter sent Tuesday to Kerry that he is concerned about the offer disclosed in statements this week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Unfortunately, for the second time in as many weeks, Secretary Kerry has alluded to making deals with foreign countries regarding our missile defense," Rogers said in a statement. "I suggest he consult with Congress about deals it won’t possibly support prior to offering concessions with countries that are not friends of ours."

"He has forgotten pretty quickly since leaving Congress that it controls the purse strings," the lawmaker said.

Lavrov told reporters in Moscow after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council that U.S. officials recently supplied "suggestions" for talks on missile defense and revealed plans for adding missile interceptors in Alaska and California and bolstered defenses in Asia.

"As chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, which has responsibility for the nation’s missile defenses, I request that you provide these ‘suggestions’ to my subcommittee no later than May 3," Rogers said in an April 24 letter to Kerry.

Rogers said he believes Kerry should have no concerns about sharing the suggestions with representatives of the American people that were provided privately to the Russians.

Earlier, Rogers challenged Kerry’s recent offer to China promising to curb U.S. missile defenses in Alaska and California in exchange for China’s help in pressuring North Korea to end its nuclear arms program.

Rogers told Kerry "you should not count on my subcommittee to provide authorization for any funding for such purpose."

The subcommittee chairman asked Kerry to respond promptly to his request noting the panel is preparing its mark up of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill.

Kerry told Chinese officials the United States was willing to negotiate plans announced recently by the Pentagon to add 14 new long-range missile interceptors to the 30 Ground-Based Interceptors now deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Pentagon announced the upgrade March 15 in response to new threats by North Korea to conduct long-range nuclear missile attacks on the United States, U.S. bases, and allies in Asia.

Russia is continuing to demand legal restrictions on U.S. missile defenses in Europe that are being deployed as part of a regional missile defense system designed to counter Iranian long-range missiles.

Acting Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller held talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on missile defense and other arms issues in Geneva last week.

Among the topics discussed, according to state-run Russian news reports, were plans to continue talks on missile defenses, as well as strategic stability topics.

Rogers, who recently took over as subcommittee chairman, has emerged as an outspoken advocate of U.S. missile defenses and strategic forces, which have been targeted for cuts by the Obama administration in favor of its arms control approach to security policy.

Rogers said on Wednesday in a speech to a Capitol Hill breakfast conference that the president is $1 billion to $1.6 billion short of promises made in 2010 to modernize aging U.S. strategic nuclear forces. Those funds were promised as a precondition for Republican support in the Senate for ratification of the New START arms treaty with Russia.

Rogers disclosed during the remarks that the Pentagon is close to completing a review of the nation’s nuclear war plan that will likely include a call for new cuts in strategic forces.

"This 18-month long ‘90-day study’ is likely to recommend significant further U.S. nuclear force reductions," Rogers said. "I find this deeply concerning, given the sorry state of the nuclear modernization commitments made during the last round."

More troubling, the congressman said, are reports the administration may seek a new arms accord by executive agreement that would avoid congressional review and Senate ratification.

"Let me be clear: I intend to ensure that no further reductions to U.S. nuclear forces, including New START treaty reductions, will occur without a formal treaty or explicit, affirmative authorization by Congress," he said.

The president is cutting $120 billion from defense in the current budget request that will negatively impact military force posture and readiness, Rogers said.

"As we see playing out today in East Asia and the Persian Gulf, the world is not getting any safer," he said. "It isn’t yet clear which missions we must now abandon, reduce, or cancel outright to comply with the president’s budget."

Rogers also said the Pentagon is cutting $3 billion from missile defense over its future years’ defense budget, even after adding $1 billion for the 14 new interceptors.

"It is unclear how this budget increase can possibly support the secretary of defense’s announcement on March 15, 2013, regarding increasing by 14 the number of deployed GBIs and reopening Missile Field 1," Rogers said.

"I am deeply concerned about the compounding of more than five years of motivated and ideological cuts to the [Missile Defense Agency] budget; we are paying for these decisions now in a more dangerous world," he said. "Why are we waiting for enemies to field capabilities before we build defenses? Are we going to anticipate the threat from Iran and be ready to meet it, or just wait until they deploy?"