Heinrichs: Stopgap Missile Amendment Is Critical

Posted May 18, 2010 at 4:23pm

House Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee will do their best Wednesday to ensure Americans are well-protected against an Iranian missile attack. They will offer up an amendment designed to provide the United States with a backup plan if the Iranians develop a long-range missile before we are adequately prepared to counter it.

[IMGCAP(1)]The amendment makes particularly good sense in light of the fact that the Obama administration’s plan to prevent attacks on Europe and the U.S. includes defenses that haven’t been developed yet, and aren’t scheduled for completion until 2020.

We can’t wait that long. A recently released Defense Intelligence Agency report indicates that Iran may have an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015. These missiles are the delivery systems for nuclear weapons, which is troubling because Iran may have a nuke even before it has an ICBM.

In short, the minority amendment plugs the five-year gap during which U.S. allies, bases and certain parts of the East Coast of the United States would be exposed.

The amendment, if passed, would require the administration to do two important things:

First, the administration would be required to continue developing the variant of the interceptor we already have deployed in Alaska and California. The variant, which was supposed to be deployed in Europe, could have offered protection against Iranian ICBMs. The administration scrapped this plan last June, almost certainly at Russia’s behest. If Congress revives the program now, the interceptor can be ready for deployment before Iran’s projected date of acquiring an ICBM in 2015.

Second, the amendment would require the administration to maintain our missile defense silos in Alaska and California. It is widely believed that the Obama administration is planning to close down one of the missile fields, and this amendment would avoid this costly mistake. The more interceptors (and facilities to launch them) we have at our disposal, the greater the probability for protecting American lives.

While partisan wrangling is almost certainly a foregone conclusion at Wednesday’s markup, the public only needs to know that this amendment greatly enhances American security.

Rebeccah Heinrichs is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.