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Redundant Anti-Missile, Space Defense Programs Can Be Desirable: Analyst

By | June 25, 2007

      While further jointness and less overlap may be well in some legacy or mature areas of defense capabilities, some redundancy in programs could be welcome and beneficial in new mission areas such as defending space assets, developing cruise missile defense capabilities, or countering enemy anti-access/area-denial efforts, an expert told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

      Andrew F. Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense-oriented Washington think tank, presented this overview as HASC lawmakers considered roles, missions and requirements of the Department of Defense (DOD).

      His comments come after the HASC recently took an either-or position on ballistic missile defense (BMD), with some HASC lawmakers arguing that the panel should put money into more advanced and workable BMD programs over others that haven’t yet progressed as far, such as the Airborne Laser.

      One nation developing anti-access/area-denial capabilities is China, which has aimed at waters between the mainland and Taiwan some 900 radar-guided missiles that could take out any U.S. Navy aircraft carrier attempting to thwart an invasion of the island nation.

      Further, China is procuring expensive, multiple new classes of advanced submarines, surface warfare ships and aircraft, and is considering acquiring an aircraft carrier for the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

      China also is obtaining longer-range missiles, and new intercontinental ballistic missiles, including a version capable of striking targets in the United States.

      Other contingencies worth considering, in determining what capabilities the DOD should possess, would include nuclear aggression by a small state, Krepinevich continued.

      North Korea has developed and tested an atomic weapons capability, and has test-fired missiles of various ranges, including a short-range weapon tested last week that was fired toward the Sea of Japan.

      As well, Iran has held a series of missile tests over the past year, including firing a missile from a submerged submarine. And Iran refuses to cease its nuclear materials development program despite pressure from industrialized nations.

      The United States would do well to consider anticipating contingencies such as defending the U.S. homeland against nuclear or biological attack, Krepinevich continued.

      He also sees another contingency as worth consideration, defense of the global commons, including space.

      China early this year used a ground-based interceptor missile to destroy one of its own aging weather satellites, creating a vast field of dangerous debris in space. The test showed that China can hold at risk the myriad U.S. and allied military and commercial space assets and space vehicles with crews.

      As a general principle, DOD shouldn’t tolerate repetitive capabilities among the armed services for mature or legacy functions, such as duplicative long-reach air strike capabilities by both the Air Force and Navy aircraft carrier assets, he observed.

      However, in areas where the United States is threatened by new enemy capabilities, it could be well to have a competition among service branches, helping to spur development of needed new counter-capabilities to defeat those threats.

      At least initially, the approach here should be one that “promotes ‘redundancy’ in order to stimulate competition among the services to identify the best way of exploiting a new capabilitiey and/or addressing a new mission requirement,” Krepinevich testified. “Here the Congress should support inter- and intra-service competition,” because such competition paid dividends in the past when the nation needed to acquire new capabilities such as the inception of ballistic missiles.

      “The same kind of competition might be useful in today’s emerging mission areas, such as projecting power … against an enemy armed with A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] capabilities, or maintaining [command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities against an enemy with an anti-satellite … capability, or in defending the homeland against cruise missile attacks, or in cyber warfare at the strategic and operational levels,” Krepinevich stated.

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