Wednesday, June 10, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: "Missile Defense More Important Than Ever"

By Congressman Mike Turner (R, OH-03)

Two weeks ago, America received a loud wake-up call from a rogue nation intent upon achieving a nuclear weapons capability. The timing of this event could not be more significant. This week the U.S. House begins drafting the new defense budget, and will consider whether or not to incorporate the Obama Administration’s request for deep cuts in missile defense capabilities that protect the U.S. homeland.

On May 25, the secretive North Korean regime tested a powerful nuclear bomb – the second such test in three years. This was accompanied by at least six test missile launches over a week’s time. The latest intelligence indicates that the isolated communist nation is now preparing for the possible launch of a long-range ballistic missile. This class of ballistic missile is believed to be capable of reaching the western United States.

Tensions are escalating on the Korean Peninsula and the United States is stepping up efforts to possibly intercept North Korean exports of banned missile systems. Some are speculating that North Korea’s leaders are probing the resolve of the Obama Administration and our allies, and shoring up domestic support for Kim Jong Il’s successor. Regardless of motive, the provocative actions of North Korea send a strong reminder that America should not reduce its commitment to a fully capable missile defense system.

North Korea is not the only emerging threat. A week earlier, Iran test fired a long-range ballistic missile with a range as far as Israel and parts of Europe. Iran also appears to be following North Korea’s path of pursuing a nuclear program and has purchased missile technology from Kim Jong Il’s regime.

The world remains a dangerous place. Rogue nations and terrorist groups make no secret of their desires to launch surprise attacks against our homeland and our forces deployed around the world. A ballistic missile attack presents one of the greatest risks to our homeland. We have a valuable tool to protect our country against such attack but its capability could be compromised if short-sighted budget cuts are approved this year.

America currently has a growing network of ground based interceptors in Alaska and California and sensors capable of detecting, tracking and shooting down hostile ballistic missiles. It has taken years to mature the technology and build these complex facilities and there are not yet enough in place to adequately protect our population in the event of a ballistic missile attack. Unfortunately, just as real progress is being made in constructing our homeland missile defense system, the Obama Administration is calling for a 35 percent cut in our planned Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, reducing the growth of the system by 14 missiles.

As the threats to the U.S. and are our allies are increasing, it’s ironic that the new Administration would seek cuts to the only defensive system America has in place to protect our homeland against a ballistic missile attack. Is the Administration willing to take this risk? America should not be placed in a vulnerable position. As Ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, I will be working with my House colleagues to restore funding to missile defense systems that protect our homeland and extend that protection to our allies during the new defense budget mark-up in the coming weeks.

Maintaining and expanding our missile defense system is critical to safeguarding the security of our military and protecting the public. It takes years to construct the infrastructure for additional interceptor missiles and these budget cuts will slow down this vital program at a time when we need it most. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on America’s security.