House Panel Cuts $719 Million From Missile Defense Programs
Poll Shows 83 Percent Of Americans Back Missile Defense
With 26 nations wielding ballistic missiles, the United States has too few ballistic missile defense assets, yet a House panel is attempting to cut $719 million from the authorization for missile defense programs, an advocacy group stated.
The authorization cuts, proposed by the House Armed Services Committee, won’t become law unless they are approved by the full House, by the Senate that is considering a measure strongly funding missile defense, and an eventual House-Senate conference committee. (Please see full story in this issue on the committee and its member, Rep. Trent Franks (R- Ariz.), a Missile Defense Caucus leader.)
In response to the House panel action, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance (MDAA) expressed astonishment, saying that amidst proliferating missile threats facing the United States and its allies, this should be a time to increase funding for missile defense programs, rather than cut financial support.
There already exists a gap between U.S. missile defense capabilities and the mushrooming spread of missiles around the globe, including ballistic missile capabilities commanded by unfriendly nations with nuclear programs, according to Riki Ellison, MDAA president.
"With 26 foreign countries having deployed ballistic missiles, the U.S. does not have enough missile defense systems to counter the threat posed by" more than two dozen nations, Ellison stated.
Those 26 nations, he continued, are Armenia, Bahrain, Belarus, China, Egypt, France, Georgia, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam and Yemen.
Among those, China has land-based nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking the United States, and nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles that can fire missiles from beneath the Pacific Ocean to strike East Coast U.S. cities. China also has more than 1,300 missiles aimed at the Strait of Taiwan that could destroy any U.S. Navy aircraft carrier group that attempted to defend Taiwan.
Iran has fired missiles in a salvo launch, fired a missile from a submerged submarine, and is developing a space satellite program with technology similar to that needed for intercontinental ballistic missiles. It already possesses missiles capable of striking Israel, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map. Further, Iran refuses to cease producing nuclear materials that it claims would be used to fuel an electrical generating plant, but which Western observers fear will be used to produce nuclear weapons that could be mounted on Iranian missiles.
North Korea also has fired missiles in a salvo, is developing a long-range Taepo Dong-2 missile that could strike cities in the United States, and possesses several nuclear weapons.
Ellison also noted that an Opinion Research Corp. poll of Americans shows 83 percent favor a strong missile defense.
He also cited a Congressional Research Service study, a Report on Proliferation Trends published earlier this year, that showed during 2007, "over 120 foreign ballistic missiles were launched. Nine of the twenty-six countries with ballistic missile capabilities have nuclear weapons, nineteen have chemical weapons and eight have biological weapons. Further, Iran is installing 9,000 centrifuges for Uranium enrichment. And North Korea has deployed 600 to 800 short range and medium missiles while Iran has deployed several hundred short range and medium range missiles.
"Our nation, which has soldiers, citizens, friends and allies in close proximity to all of these twenty-six countries, has little if any, deployed missile defense systems to protect all of these lives. Today, to protect the millions of lives at risk, our country has deployed 24 long-range interceptors, 46 medium-range interceptors and 546 short-range interceptors," Ellison stated.
"This is clearly not enough capability to ensure our public safety and protection of our armed forces and allies today, let alone next year or five years from now," he said, when the 26 nations will have even more threatening missile capabilities, and other nations may acquire such weapons as well.
Therefore, Ellison continued, it is baffling that the House panel chose to cut U.S. financial support for missile defense programs.
"In this current threat environment as well as the endorsement of the 26 countries in NATO for the deployment of missile defense in Europe, the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee (HASC) is cutting $719 million from the Department of Defense’s request for Missile Defense and withdrawing authorization for funding of the European Missile Defense site in 2009," he noted.
"This is in direct contrast to the [Senate Armed Services Committee], which earlier this month authorized full funding of the European Missile Defense site."
Ellison questioned why the House lawmakers oppose missile defense programs, since they are merely defenses against enemy predations, rather than being offensive systems.
"Missile defense is one of the few weapon systems in the … Department of Defense budget that is developed not to kill, injure or harm human life," Ellison observed.
"At 1.8 percent of the Department of Defense budget, missile defense protects, reduces threats and stabilizes crisis regions, allowing our country to have other options rather than military action or war."
The funding cuts are especially puzzling, given that missile defense works, Ellison stated. "This has been proven by the recent satellite shoot-down in February and the recent testing successes of the U.S. missile defense systems, which have had 26 out of 27 successful intercepts since September of 2005," he asserted.