Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the United States will add 14 interceptors to the 30 in its missile defense system by fiscal 2017, sending a signal to North Korea after it threatened nuclear strikes.
The United States is taking several steps to bolster missile defenses and “stay ahead of the threat” posed by Iran and North Korea, Hagel told reporters today at the Pentagon. The announcement comes as Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is preparing to travel to Asia this weekend, with stops including South Korea.
The current ground-based system has interceptors built by Orbital Sciences Corp. topped by hit-to-kill warheads from Raytheon. Boeing manages the $34 billion system that now has 26 interceptors at Fort Greely, Ala., and four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The added interceptors will cost $1 billion, funds the Pentagon will request in its fiscal 2014 budget, according to James Miller, under secretary of defense for policy.
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But Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Obama’s decision to add the additional interceptors in Alaska was not enough.
“Secretary Hagel’s announcement is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough to address the threat from Iran,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Reflecting concerns by Congress, the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act directs the president to develop a contingency plan for the deployment of a homeland missile defense interceptor site on the East Coast.
“In light of this recent announcement, and the increase in Iran’s nuclear activities, I call on the president to turn that contingency plan into a deployment order,” Inhofe said.
There’s no evidence yet that North Korea has nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to target the United States or South Korea. There’s also no public information on whether the North has been able to covertly advance beyond testing to weaponizing a nuclear device.
“North Korea’s claims may be hyperbolic — but as to the policy of the United States, there should be no doubt: We will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea,” U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said in a March 11 speech to the Asia Society in New York.
The intelligence community’s annual global threat assessment, presented to Congress this week by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, cited “North Korea’s commitment to develop long-range missile technology that could pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, said today the Obama administration was reversing course after opposing calls to expand the missile defense system. Lawmakers including Turner have pushed to add silos on the East Coast of the United States.
“Nations like North Korea and Iran are committed to building long-range ballistic missiles and are undertaking robust nuclear weapons programs,” Turner, who heads the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, said in an emailed statement. “No longer can the administration ignore these threats.”
Fox News reported yesterday on plans to expand the missile defense system.
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