Repeated Salvos

/ March 9, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Republican Rep. Eric Cantor (VA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ) are warning against cutting missile defense funding in the face of what they see as escalating threats from North Korea and Iran.

In an op-ed piece published today in Politico, Cantor and Kyl write:

. . . ((U))nclassified reports have detailed North Korea's preparations for the launch, possibly within days, of a new, even longer-range Taepo Dong 2 missile. This kind of missile is a threat, not just to some of America's closest allies in the region (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) but to the U.S. itself.

Moreover, North Korea continues to be the world’s greatest proliferator of ballistic missile technology and nuclear weapons know-how. We should be very concerned about with whom North Korea does business.

And then there’s Iran.

On Feb. 2, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proudly announced that his country had successfully launched its first satellite. If it were any other country, such a launch would seem of little consequence. However, as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, recently noted, space launch technologies “are compatible with an intercontinental ballistic missile-type capability.”

Add to that the latest news that Iran has enriched one-third more uranium than was previously understood -- more than enough to build a nuclear bomb -- and the potential threat is clear.

These examples should underscore the necessity for an effective, operational missile defense system. Yet the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are now seeking ways to halt the progress that’s been made in defending against these threats.

Cantor and Kyl write of their concern about recent statements from other members of Congress and news reports of the Obama administration's alleged plans to "make significant cuts" to the fiscal year 2010 missile defense budget, including "funds that would be used to deploy our missile defense assets to Europe -- which NATO has twice stated is necessary to deal with the threat from Iran.

"That such a rollback of the system is being discussed is dangerous," they warn. "That it is being discussed at the same time North Korea and Iran are carrying out aggressive, threatening activities is irresponsible and unacceptable."

The two lawmakers continue: "When President Obama campaigned last year, he said that he supported missile defense systems that work. Our systems have shown through numerous tests that they work -- that is not in doubt."

The Pentagon's operational test and evaluation office might have something to say about that, however.

At a Feb. 25 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) asked DOT&E Director Charles McQueary whether the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, just because it "receives a less-than-perfect test score, ((does)) this necessarily means it does not provide the warfighter with an operationally effective capability?"

McQueary responded that he couldn't say "with high confidence" that the GMD system is an operationally effective system. "Our job is testing and to deal with the facts at hand. And there's simply not been enough testing done in order to be able to state it."

To which Franks said:

. . . I don't know of any system that we have that is proven 100 percent effective. I'm not even sure we could say that about the baseball bat, but it's still pretty effective at close range.

-- John Liang