Taking Homeland Missile Defense Seriously

By Rep. Mike Turner

Shortly after North Korea began ramping up their threats of attacking the United States or our allies in the Pacific, our nation moved key missile defense assets to the region. Then, the Obama Administration picked up their favorite bargaining chip - America’s missile defense shield.

Secretary of State John Kerry flew to China and offered to remove our recently added defenses in the Pacific to encourage them to counter the increasingly belligerent tone and actions by North Korea. This is the same failed strategy that the Administration offered up to the Russians in exchange for the Administration’s request that they engage with Iran. Meanwhile both the North Korean and Iranian programs to develop intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons continue. 

At a time when our missile defense system is the only defense that we have to the threat from North Korea and the emerging threats from Iran, I am greatly concerned that our nation’s missile defense strategy is languishing. The end result is increased risk to the United States, increased cost to the taxpayer and needless alienation of our allies. 

Our enemies around the world have sought nuclear weapons and missile technology, yet the Obama Administration has consistently reduced missile defense funding, abandoned previous Bush Administration strategies that sought to respond to these emerging threats and has compromised the implementation of missile defense programs.

They have sought elusive Russian, and now Chinese, approval of the right of the United States to defend itself. Most recently, the Administration has abandoned its own missile defense strategy. Specifically, Phase IV of the Phased Adaptive Approach which would have provided homeland protection from missiles launched from the Middle East. Instead, they have thrown their support behind a stopgap measure of completing installation ground-based missiles in Alaska that they had previously cancelled. 

I welcomed the Administration announcing its long-stalled installation of ground based interceptors at the Alaska missile field – a facility it has attempted to close. Although this reveals that they have no plan to reasonably respond to the real and foreseeable threats from North Korea and Iran. This deficiency is compounded by the effects of the Administration's clumsy handling of our relationship with our NATO and Asian allies.

The abrupt cancelation of the Bush Administration missile defense commitments coupled with the announcement of the abandonment of the president’s phased adaptive approach have left our allies to stand alone in the face of domestic criticism and Russian opposition to the US expanding its missile defense infrastructure.

Our relationship with the Polish and Czech governments has yet to fully recover. I am concerned that the Administration may repeat the same relationship-straining affront with our Romanian allies as well as our Asian allies. The president and his Administration must address the damage done to our relationships with our NATO allies as a result of their failed missile defense strategies.

Since completion of the Alaska missile field alone is insufficient for full protection of the United States, I am calling upon the Administration to support the site selection and completion of an East Coast missile field to complement our missile defense sites in California and Alaska.

Previously, General Charles H. Jacoby, head of Northern Command with responsibility of defending the U.S. has stated: “What a third site gives me, whether it’s on the East Coast, or an alternate location, would be increased battle space. That means, increased opportunity for me to engage threats from Iran or North Korea.”

This past week at a hearing before the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, I asked Vice Admiral James D. Syring the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, if he would agree with General Jacoby on the benefit of increased battle space, his answer was “Yes.”

The world is not becoming a safer place.  That increased battle space and a clearly defined missile defense strategy are the defense which will continue to keep the homeland safe. Offering to weaken our defenses in hopes of irrational nations suspending their weapons programs is not an effective security strategy. Simply put – these offers are of sole benefit to our adversaries and to the detriment of the American people. It’s time we refocus our efforts where they will count.

Congressman Mike Turner, a Republican representing the 10th District of Ohio, is Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

Rep. Mike Turner
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