Defending America with vague promises 286

James Carafano writes in the Washington Examiner:

The Pentagon budget the president sent to the Hill would have slashed production and deployment of U.S.-based missile interceptors by about a third. The cuts would have come from missile defenses that are already tested, proven and, for the most part, paid for. So much for the promise of “pragmatic and cost-effective” defenses.

Case in point: The Obama budget included absolutely zero funds to replace “Missile Field One.” This Alaskan missile field, now part of the missile defense shield, includes the first silos built to test the long-range interceptors.

The silos were not built for long-term use. They now need to be replaced. But the Obama budget request zeroed out that funding … even though the budget still retained an already paid-for fleet of interceptors.

Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish! Those paid-for interceptors can be of no use without silos from which to shoot them. The Obama budget would have left them silo-less.

The White House also started backpedaling from the previous administration’s commitment to field missile defense interceptors in Poland that would protect both our allies and our troops in Europe from the growing Iranian missile threat. The administration tried to justify the delay by saying it wanted to look at “pragmatic and cost-effective” alternatives.

One alternative it says it wants to consider is a mobile, land-based system. Cool, huh? Except that such a system exists nowhere other than on some PowerPoint slides. So much for “pragmatic.”

The other alternative it is considering is a sea-based system. But sea-based defenses are much more expensive to operate than land-based silos. Moreover, our current sea-based system can’t intercept long-range missiles.

A new sea-based interceptor will have to be developed to do the job. Thus, the “pragmatic and cost-effective alternative” the administration says it wants to consider is demonstrably more expensive and totally unproven.

Obama’s defense budget also killed a missile defense research and development program called the Kinetic Energy Interceptor. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was “going nowhere,” expensive and unproven. What he did not mention is that, so far, the only part of the KEI program that has actually been built is a “fire-control” system that links the missile-detecting sensors to the interceptors.

The fire-control part of KEI has been fully tested. It is a robust system that could be utilized with any land- or sea-based interceptor (not just the proposed KEI missile). By killing the funding for the entire program, the fire control system (the part American tax dollars have already paid for) will be terminated as well — another violation of the “proven and cost-effective” pledge.

Finally, Obama promised that he’d work to replace today’s tested, proven and paid-for technologies with something even better: A future system that could knock down enemy missiles at their most vulnerable point — the “ascent phase,” right after they’ve been fired.

OK, except the Pentagon’s proposed budget lacks any real funding for such a program. Nor do Pentagon planners have any idea what such a program might look like. In short, today’s real, working weapons systems are being replaced with vague promises.