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Many have drawn the lesson from North Korea’s recent missile test failure that all is well and there is no real threat to America, and that President Barack Obama’s proposed cuts to national missile defense should not be a concern. I believe this is incorrect and deeply naive.
It would be fundamentally irresponsible to continue drawing down our national missile defenses while states like North Korea continue to invest in developing the means to attack the American people.
North Korea has apparently recently showcased six road mobile missiles. These may be the new intercontinental ballistic missiles that military and civilian defense officials have been warning of since last May. According to public reports, this missile was built with Chinese assistance from a state-owned Chinese company. Such a missile could pose a direct threat to the United States, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Secretary Robert Gates, especially in the context of North Korea’s preparations for a third nuclear weapons test.
The problem is, of course, larger than North Korea — there are well-understood connections between the ballistic missile programs of North Korea and Iran, and North Korea’s improvements today may be Iran’s new military capabilities tomorrow.
Even without ballistic missile cooperation with North Korea, Iran is well on its way toward developing a nuclear weapons capability. The president appears to be bending over backward to offer concessions to Iran, such as civil nuclear cooperation, instead of using all necessary means to stop its nuclear ambitions.
It’s unacceptable that the administration has failed to counter these emerging threats and in fact is taking steps to lessen our defenses.
In his first budget submission to the Congress, Obama slashed $1.16 billion out of the missile defense budget in a single year. The fiscal 2013 budget plan for the next five years is $3.6 billion less than even Obama’s own five-year plan submitted last year and $2 billion less than the previous administration projected for fiscal 2013.
Of course, this is consistent with what candidate Obama said in the 2008 campaign — that he doesn’t “agree with a missile defense system.”
When the president has requested support for missile defense, it has been to support missile defense capabilities other than our own. According to Missile Defense Agency budget charts, the U.S. under his plan will be spending about $4 or $5 on regional missile defense for every $1 on national missile defense.
The hits keep coming with proposed cuts by the administration to the ground-based mid-course defense system. The funding request for this year is $600 million less than the last request from the previous administration. In addition, Obama has recommended to Congress that the U.S. shut down six homeland missile defense interceptor silos at Fort Greely, Alaska.
The Defense Department has been promising a “hedging strategy” that would lay out to Congress how it will respond to growing ballistic missile threats to the U.S. for almost three years. The need for a “hedging strategy” is itself an admission that the current plan doesn’t assume threats will continue to grow. Despite promises to the House Armed Services Committee as recently as a March 6 oversight hearing on the budget request for missile defense, there is no sign of this strategy. There are times when the silence is deafening.