A few weeks ago, North Korea attempted to launch a satellite into space atop a Taepodong rocket and, according to reports, succeeded in all but the very last stage of the launch sequence. At the time, our nation’s leaders were unsure whether North Korea planned to launch a communications satellite or test an offensive missile that could potentially reach the western United States. This uncertainty led me to join with 15 other members of the House Armed Services Committee in asking the President to employ our nation’s missile defense system if the North Korean launch endangered the U.S. or our allies in the Pacific.
It is not hard to imagine a similar scenario across the Atlantic, yet we do not have a capability to call on should we need to. A European missile defense system has been proposed as part of a joint effort between the United States government and our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in Europe. The planned system would enhance the global effort to protect against ballistic missile attacks by placing defensive assets in Poland and the Czech Republic. These assets would include the installation of anti-missile rockets, known as interceptors, in Poland, and radar tracking equipment in the Czech Republic.
The deployment of these assets in Central Europe would augment a network of missile defense technology already in place around the world. It would add missile defense capabilities for the protection of the U.S. homeland and our military assets in Europe, and our European allies. This includes sea and land based interceptors, as well as radar facilities in Alaska, California, and the United Kingdom, and aboard strategically positioned naval vessels.
The missile defense technology that our military commanders rely on to protect the United States from a North Korean missile strike or errant launch is the same being proposed for Europe to protect both the United States and our NATO allies from an Iranian missile launch. However, in February of this year, President Obama sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly suggesting that his Administration is willing to cease development of a European missile defense site in return for certain diplomatic concessions. I am extremely concerned that this type of action is unilateral and undertaken without consultation with our NATO allies, Poland or the Czech Republic, and places an important component of our national security in the hands of Russia.
While I believe everyone across the ideological spectrum wishes to keep our country safe, I am deeply concerned this change in course will undermine our commitment to work with allies to develop shared solutions for our mutual defense and potentially limit the defensive options of the United States.
I am aware of the important role global missile defense plays in defending our nation. At this moment, there are numerous hostile nations that are actively pursuing the development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking targets around the world. The addition of a European site to our existing missile defense capabilities will enhance our ability to neutralize such threats.
Southwest Ohio plays a unique and important role in developing and supporting global missile defense. For example, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is home to the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), the nation’s primary intelligence gatherer on foreign missile capabilities. Their assessment of Iran, North Korea, and other rogue nations’ missile capabilities, intentions, and proliferation reinforces the need for missile defenses to protect the nation. NASIC was among the first in the government providing our nation’s leaders with immediate assessments of the North Korean launch and Iran’s space launch in February. Much of their work is classified so they often go unnoticed in the district, but members of Congress, our national leaders, and military commanders rely on their expertise and analysis to make informed policy and defense decisions.
I believe establishing a global missile defense program will improve our national security and strengthen foreign alliances. I look forward to continuing to work with both the President and my colleagues in Congress on this important topic.
Below is Congressman Turner's opening statement of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, during a March 26 subcommittee hearing on the future roles and missions of the Missile Defense Agency.