U.S. Representative Michael R. Turner, Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, charged the Obama administration’s proposed new missile defense program with potentially leaving the United States vulnerable to an Iranian ICBM attack for a period of five years.
In response to the president’s announced scrapping of a proposed European-based missile defense system in favor of a scaled back program, Turner pointed to U.S. intelligence which reveals a five-year gap between when Iran is expected to achieve long range missile capability in 2015 and the administration’s stated plan of deploying its new missile defense system by 2020. This decision comes on the heels of a decision earlier this year by the administration to curtail the number of missile defense interceptors in Alaska, which provide protection of the U.S. homeland, by one-third.
“It is completely unacceptable that the administration’s just-announced ‘phased, adaptive’ approach to missile defense leaves the United States vulnerable to ICBM attack from Iran for five years,” said Congressman Turner.
The administration states in Phase Four of its new missile defense strategy that it will deploy a system to “better cope” with potential future ICBM threats to the United States by 2020. However, unclassified intelligence reports state “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” After Iran’s successful space launch in February 2009, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Michael Maples, stated that “Iran’s February 2, 2009, launch of the Safir space launch vehicle shows progress in mastering technology needed to produce ICBMs.” Later in March 2009, General Craddock, then Commander of U.S. European Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee, “By 2015 Iran may also deploy an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of reaching all of Europe and parts of the U.S.”
Turner’s concerns follow published reports which cite International Atomic Energy Agency experts agreeing that Iran already has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is likely to “overcome problems” in constructing a missile delivery capability for such a weapon.
“It is absolutely irresponsible of the administration to scrap the planned European missile defense program which could have been in place ahead of Iran’s ability to launch ICBMs,” Turner said. “There can be no justification for shirking our responsibility to protect Americans from a radical regime bent on obtaining nuclear weapons technology and the ability to deliver them. I call on the administration to rethink its hasty and unilateral decision to leave the United States vulnerable to Iranian ICBM attack.”