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Rep. Turner: East Coast Vulnerable to Nuclear Threats

Image: Rep. Turner: East Coast Vulnerable to Nuclear Threats

By David Yonkman, Washington Correspondent   |   Thursday, 02 May 2013 05:04 PM

The lack of a missile defense system on the East Coast leaves the U.S. vulnerable to growing nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, a GOP lawmaker who serves on a key missile defense oversight panel tells Newsmax.

"The president’s missile defense strategy is in shambles at a time when Iran and North Korea are both threatening the United States and our allies," Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said.

Turner is one of 16 Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee who sent a letter on Tuesday to Florida Rep. Bill Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, seeking $250 million for the program in the fiscal 2014 defense budget.

"It is incumbent upon the Congress, in the absence of aggressive action by the president, to deploy an East Coast site to defend the United States from the rising threat of ballistic missile development from the Islamic Republic of Iran," the lawmakers wrote.

"We urge you to take the necessary steps to modernize the United States’ missile defense system and make it capable of defending against future missile and nuclear threats," they wrote.

The lawmakers say that the United States needs to build on the momentum coming from an announcement in March by the Obama administration that it would spend $1 billion to add 14 interceptors to its missile defense system on the West Coast. The action would bring the total number of interceptors to 44 at sites in California and Alaska, but none on the East Coast.

The $250 million requested by the lawmakers would pay for expenses related to site design, missile-complex development, and installation of hardware and software. The request is an increase of $150 million over the amount for the program in the House’s 2013 authorization bill, The Hill reported.

"It is just the beginning of the effort to create an East Coast missile defense system," Turner told Newsmax. "It’s wasted time if we don’t begin now."

Obama has been reluctant to build a missile defense site on the East Coast thus far in his administration, Michaela Dodge, research associate for strategic issues at the Heritage Foundation, told Newsmax.

"The administration thinks we don’t need a missile defense on the East Coast because the West Coast provides enough coverage for the entire U.S. homeland," Dodge said. "The Iranians and North Koreans both have a desire to threaten the U.S., and we have to make sure that we stay ahead of the of the threat and not play catch-up in the future."

Congress has already directed the Pentagon to undertake an environmental impact study to determine the location of a new site on the East Coast, which is the first step in the process, Dodge said.

Dodge added that a missile defense site on the East Coast could offer protection against nuclear-tipped, shorter-range missiles that could cause an electromagnetic pulse attack. An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles that cause a destruction of electrical circuits.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has said such an attack — which could be launched from a small watercraft just offshore — could “cripple a metro area the size of New York or Los Angeles.”

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