The focus of my remarks this morning is to provide a congressional perspective on missile defense; my reactions to recent missile defense decisions by the Obama Administration, including its announcement to scrap plans to deploy missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic; and the implications of such decisions.
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Opening Remarks
Honorable Michael Turner
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
House Armed Services Committee

2009 Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference
September 21, 2009

I am honored to be a part of the 2009 Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense conference.  The Missile Defense Agency and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics have done a great job putting together this event.  In particular, I would like to recognize and thank General O’Reilly.  Members of Congress in both political parties have a tremendous amount of respect for the General, and I attribute that to his leadership and his technical credentials.  

The AIAA also deserves specific acknowledgement.  The AIAA is an outstanding professional organization.  I commend your ongoing advocacy of aerospace technology, education, and professional development, as well as your efforts to bring focus to important international security topics such as missile defense.  

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our international guests.  It is a privilege to be participating in this conference with all of you, and I hope to meet many of you throughout the course of today’s events.  

The focus of my remarks this morning is to provide a congressional perspective on missile defense; my reactions to recent missile defense decisions by the Obama Administration, including its announcement to scrap plans to deploy missile defense assets in Poland and the Czech Republic; and the implications of such decisions.  

European missile defense is an important national security and foreign policy issue, and it merits comprehensive examination.  I know you’ll hear from several Administration officials who will provide one perspective.  Some in Congress will agree.  However, others like myself, will disagree or at the least remain skeptical.  I think it is valuable for you to hear those different viewpoints to give you a sense of the key issues and concerns that will shape future debate within the Congress. 

First, I want to start by saying that I am incredibly proud of our nation’s missile defense accomplishments, and the dedicated men and women behind them.  In less than five years, the United States fielded a defensive capability of ground-based interceptors, Aegis ships, Patriot batteries, and radars.  All along the nay-sayers, including some in Congress, insisted it wouldn’t work.  But MDA proved them wrong.  They did it through focused research and development, and successful testing; a testing record, by the way, that currently stands at 39 for 49.  They had the strong political and financial commitment of an Administration and a majority in Congress who recognized the importance of the mission.  

It is clear that missile defense technology works.  It is also clear that the investments made to-date in this defensive capability have given us a tangible level of protection against ballistic missiles fired in anger or by accident.  Our reliance on it during North Korea’s recent missiles launches is a case in point.  North Korea and Iran also use their missiles and nuclear programs as tools of coercion.  Our missile defense capabilities reduce our vulnerability to such intimidation.  Given the fact that representatives from NATO, Australia, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and the UK are here to discuss their efforts in missile defense, I have to believe that our friends and allies also value its security benefits. 

Let me repeat: the technology works.  However, these systems are nascent.  The community is constantly improving its knowledge of these highly complex systems.  Congress has required greater testing, particularly under operationally realistic conditions.  We are also pressing the Pentagon to increase the reliability and sustainability of existing systems, grow its inventories, and expand capabilities to address current and emerging threats.  Congress has taken a consistent bipartisan position in these areas.  We also strongly believe in collective security and honoring our commitments to friends and allies, and we share in the desire to expand our collective missile defense capabilities through international cooperation.

However, the decision last Thursday by the Administration to abandon plans for European missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, unfortunately, leaves the opposite impression.  I represent a significant number of members in the House and Senate who disagree with the Administration’s decision.  I think it is fraught with questionable assumptions and considerable geopolitical consequences, and I have told this to senior Administration officials with whom I have spoken.    

A central justification for the Administration’s decision is allegedly a new threat assessment which suggests that the threat from Iran’s longer-range ballistic missiles has been slower to develop, while its short and medium-range ballistic missiles are growing more rapidly than previously expected.  They believe that this is the real, near-term threat that we should be worried about. 

I can’t come to the same conclusion as the Administration.  This is a sudden change, and inconsistent with the frequent briefings, intelligence reports, and testimony the House Armed Services Committee has received from intelligence and defense officials.  After Iran successfully launched a satellite earlier this year, then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Michael Maples stated, “Iran’s February 2, 2009 launch of the Safir space launch vehicle shows progress in mastering technology needed to produce ICBMs.”  The current White House, through a spokesman, concurred, “Iran’s development of a space launch vehicle capable of putting a satellite into orbit establishes the technical basis from which Iran could develop long-range ballistic missile systems.  

This is a matter of deep concern.”  Later in March 2009, General Craddock, then Commander of U.S. European Command testified before the committee, “By 2015 Iran may also deploy an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile capable of reaching all of Europe and parts of the U.S.”  In May 2009, an unclassified intelligence report issued by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center stated, “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the United States by 2015.”  I do not believe Congress should reject this expert testimony and information.  No Administration official has yet to answer my basic question, “Is the long-range threat diminishing”?

Despite these judgments from key apolitical intelligence and defense organizations, there seems to be this certainty by some that the Iranians can’t develop an IRBM or ICBM by 2015, and that these aren’t “real” threats to the U.S. or our allies.  This, even though Iran continues to demonstrate the requisite technology, and work closely with the North Koreans who themselves appear to be pursuing ICBMs.  Furthermore, let’s not forget that, according to press reports, the North Koreans supplied Iran with eighteen BM-25 IRBMs in 2005.  

Intelligence is an imprecise business.  I like to think of intelligence analysis as trying to put together a 1,000 piece puzzle with only 20 pieces of the puzzle.  There are gaps and uncertainties.  To be fair, there are cases where we’ve seen a potential adversary take longer to develop a capability than previously estimated, but there are also cases where one has mastered a technology in a relatively short amount of time and where we have all been taken by surprise.  Our insight is further limited when you have countries like Iran or North Korea that have gone underground and worked hard to mask their activities.  

Yes, I am equally concerned by the proliferation and growth in short- and medium-range missiles.  They are a threat to our allies, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, and to our forward-deployed troops.  Thus, growing the capabilities and inventories of theater defenses is incredibly important.  But, I think that the Administration is missing the broader point, strategically:  there should not be this false trade to do theater defenses now and longer-range defenses later.  In reality, we need both to deal with the evolving threat.  And I think that had the missile defense budget not been reduced by $1.2 billion dollars below last year’s level, we could have continued both.  

The new architecture being proposed by the Administration—the “phased, adaptive approach for missile defense in Europe”—is not so new.  The plan to develop and field increasingly capable theater missile defenses, as well as a comprehensive architecture, was already in place by the previous Administration, as past years’ budgets have reflected. 

Let’s revisit what that basic plan was.  First, there was to be a NATO-wide missile defense architecture to address the full range of threats.  The U.S. would contribute a long-range missile defense system that would cover the U.S. and most of Europe, while our NATO allies were encouraged to contribute assets in the shorter ranges to fill-in the gaps.  Meanwhile, the U.S. would also continue to build up its Aegis and THAAD inventories to provide further coverage in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific.  All, and I repeat all, NATO heads of state and government signed on to this basic agreement at the April 2008 Bucharest Summit.  They declared, “Ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allies’ forces, territory, and populations.  Missile defense forms part of a broader response to counter this threat.  We therefore recognize the substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles to be provided by the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defense assets.  We are exploring ways to link this capability with current NATO missile defense efforts.”  This was reaffirmed in a December 2008 meeting of NATO foreign ministers. 

Now it seems that the United States will provide short-, medium-, and eventually long-range missile defenses for Europe.  The original “bargain” is no longer in place and NATO will have to go back to the drawing board.  It is unclear what role and contribution our European allies will now have to make to this new architecture. 

The Administration laid out a four-phased approach that it believes is less technically risky and provides more comprehensive coverage sooner.  However, the 2011 Phase One and 2015 Phase Two deployments of Aegis SM-3 Block 1-A, 1-B, and THAAD systems, provide only modest coverage of Europe, unless the Administration significantly increases the number of ship stations and THAAD batteries.  And, they provide little coverage of the U.S. against Iranian ICBMs.  This new approach doesn’t provide protection for most of Europe against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles until 2018, or protection of the U.S. against ICBMs until 2020.  Protection of the U.S. requires a new interceptor—the SM-3 Block 2-B that no one had heard of before last Thursday, it doesn’t exist, and we’re unfamiliar with its current funding stream.  

Meanwhile, the 2-stage ground-based interceptor, intended to protect Europe and the United States against a range of missiles, is over 90-pecent similar to the interceptors currently in Alaska and California, was to be flight-tested in Fiscal Year 2010, and under the original plan, fielded in Poland by 2013.  Whatever the details, it is not clear that this new plan represents a less technically risky approach that protects Europe and the U.S. sooner and more comprehensively, as the Administration asserts.  Furthermore, this new approach is likely to remain problematic for Russia and require additional host country agreements. 

Should Iran have an IRBM or ICBM capability by 2015, or even 2018, this new approach could leave parts of Europe vulnerable for several years and the United States vulnerable for up to 5 years.  I worry that we’re offering Tehran an open invitation to focus on longer-range missile development, which it is already doing.

It is also striking that this decision does not appear to have been made on the basis of cost-effectiveness.  According to a 2008 independent report required by Congress, the Czech and Polish proposal was the most cost-effective solution to protect the U.S. and Europe.  Aegis SM-3 Block 1-A, Block 1-B, and Block 2-A, as well as THAAD capabilities, were assessed as capable systems, but not as cost-effective.  And all had significant inventory implications.  I have asked the Pentagon to declassify this report to support a full and robust debate on how best to deploy a European missile defense system to protect the U.S., our forward-deployed troops, and our allies.  In the meantime, skeptics in Congress look forward to receiving details supporting the Administration’s assertion that this new approach is less costly. 
Even more so than the technical and cost concerns, some in Congress – including myself – would argue that the most disconcerting aspect of this decision are its geopolitical consequences, starting with its effect on our relationships with friends and allies.  The Czech Republic and Poland, who have troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside U.S. forces, went out on a limb.  They agreed to host U.S. long-range missile defense assets, despite it being domestically unpopular.  Their leaders made these decisions because it was important, they saw the long-term security benefits, and they were committed to a strong relationship with the U.S.  Many in Congress view this as reneging on a commitment, particularly after bipartisan congressional delegations took trip after trip to tell these nations that once they approved the missile defense agreements, the U.S. would provide funding and support.  

I would encourage the Administration to actively engage our Polish and Czech friends.  These alliances are too important to neglect.  I would also urge them to place a priority on expanding cooperative security activities with Prague and Warsaw, and consider accelerating plans to deploy a Patriot battery in Poland by 2012.

There is a significant divide on Russia.  Many in Congress are concerned that this decision is a concession to Russia.  The Administration has been adamant in stating it was not linking the START follow-on treaty with missile defense, despite Russian pressure to do so.  Coincidentally, on the eve of START negotiations in Geneva, the Administration gave Russia the concession it wanted.  The U.S. got nothing.  Well, except for the hope that, in exchange, Russia would assist in stopping Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  So, what was Russia’s reaction?  Prime Minister Putin remarked the day after, "The latest decision by President Obama . . . has positive implications… And I very much hope that this very right and brave decision will be followed by others."  Will be followed by others; other decisions by the U.S., not actions by Russia.

As I wrote to the President last March, if Russia perceives it can gain U.S. concessions on missile defense now, it will be more likely to demand greater concessions later.  What is clear is that the Kremlin expects shifts in U.S. policy without having to take equivalent action.  We have no indications that Russia will cooperate on Iran.  However, Russian leaders have indicated a fundamental disagreement with the West’s view on the threat posed by Iran and continue to oppose tougher sanctions.  This is incredibly problematic.  Gambling on concessions and getting nothing in return is a dangerous and risky national security policy. 

There is also concern about the second and third order effects of this decision.  Perceptions matter.  Will allies and friends think twice before cooperating with the U.S. on missile defense?  Will they view U.S. defense commitments more skeptically in the future?  Will allies and friends perceive a weakening of the U.S. vis-à-vis Russia?  The headline of a daily paper in the Czech Republic read, “No radar.  Russia won.”  Will Russia and Iran use this decision as an opening to be more assertive in their foreign policy?  These are challenging geopolitical questions that will continue to be asked. 

Though there will be disagreement on the Administration’s decision, there is no doubt about our bipartisan commitment to collective security.  I would hope that our international visitors here today will relay to their capitals the message that the United States Congress is committed to international missile defense cooperation.    

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a NATO Parliamentarian, I have had the opportunity to travel on multiple occasions to our NATO partner countries.  As the Administration’s Russia “reset” policy began to emerge, it became clear to me that we needed to reinforce our transatlantic security policy and our transatlantic relationships first.  As a result, I introduced a bipartisan bill, entitled NATO FIRST, which sought to reassure our allies and strengthen our transatlantic security policies through concrete measures.  These included increasing funding for European missile defense, committing to the deployment of a U.S. Patriot battery in Poland by 2012, and ensuring that the START follow-on treaty did not limit missile defenses.  I successfully included 6 of the 8 provisions in the defense authorization bill that the House of Representatives passed in June.  Currently, we are in negotiation with the Senate on these provisions as part of a conference on our defense bill. 

My legislation on European missile defense does open the door to alternatives.  However, the alternative must be at least as cost-effective and operationally available as the Third Site that was proposed to protect both the United States and Europe.  It must also be deployed ahead of the threat, because if we wait until after, it’s already too late. 

Perhaps the ultimate litmus test for the Administration’s new approach will be whether it is funded. What are the programs?  What is the cost?  And, bottomline, will program investments match the Administration’s new policy?  All this must be done in what is expected to be a declining defense budget scenario.  According to reports, the Secretary of Defense has directed the Pentagon to cut an additional $60 billion from defense budgets over the next five years.  

I worry that the Administration may continue to believe that MDA is an attractive target for cuts.  MDA already sustained a $1.2 billion dollar reduction this year, and key programs were cut.  This included current capabilities like the GMD system in Alaska and future capabilities like the Airborne Laser and Kinetic Energy Interceptor.  Though theater missile defense programs were increased by $900 million, even they had less inventory purchases that anticipated.  There is nothing left to cut unless the Administration intends to further scale back GMD or terminate promising technologies.  To be sure, General O’Reilly has some tough decisions ahead of him. 

During his April 5th speech in Prague, the President stated, “As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.  If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”  Well, absent any congressional hearings or briefings on the decision, I can only go on what I know to-date.  The Iranian threat from missiles of all ranges is clearly not eliminated.  Furthermore, I have not seen any evidence that the new approach would be more cost-effective at protecting the U.S. and Europe.  The capabilities that the Administration would like to rely on for defense of the U.S. currently are programs that don’t exist.  And finally, I don’t believe the perceived benefits of the Administration’s new approach outweigh the geopolitical consequences.  

John Adams, the great Boston patriot, wrote in a letter to James Lloyd in January of 1815, “National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.”  In this letter, Adams reflected on his efforts in 1775 to establish an American Navy believing it would strengthen U.S. security in the face of evolving sea-based threats.  Despite the domestic unpopularity of a U.S. Navy at the time, Adams pressed ahead because it was the right decision.  I continue to believe that pushing ahead with missile defense is the right decision to strengthen the national defense of the U.S. and our European allies.  And, I look forward to working with you on missile defense technologies to protect both the U.S. and our allies.