Nevertheless, and despite provocations from the DPRK, Iran and other rogue nations, House appropriators now plan to cut $15 million from JLENS in the fiscal 2014 appropriations bill. On June 14, Reps. Robert E. Andrews, D-N.J., and Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., submitted an amendment to completely restore an earlier $30 million cut in the House Armed Services Committee bill (NDAA) that somehow became the $15 million cut in the appropriations bill. Andrews emphasized he “had no dog in the fight” since JLENS has no industrial connections to New Jersey. Rather, he feels that there is no alternative to JLENS and that it offers “enormous” value to warfighters, adding, “This is a very agile, mobile system, that can be set up quickly . . . and coordinate a lot of firepower at an efficient cost.”
Even the Pentagon’s acquisition chief Frank Kendall wrote in May 2012, JLENS “is essential to national security.” And last fall a demonstration showed JLENS can operate with existing Navy networks to protect ships from cruise missiles. It has also proved able to detect and track tactical ballistic missiles in the ascent phase, as well as detect and track aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles and small swarming boats.
The U.S. Army now has only two JLENS systems out of the original plan for 16. As a first step toward acquiring an inventory of this vital system, Congress should restore program funds and add the small amount needed to deploy one system to the Korean DMZ and the other to the vital Strait of Hormuz. The combat commands have already asked for them.
A modest funding fix will quickly move our eyes in the sky over the Persian Gulf, as well as over the aggressive North Korean paper tiger.
Chet Nagle is a graduate of the Naval Academy, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, a former Defense Department official and the author of the novel Iran Covenant.