A leading Republican lawmaker admonished the White House Tuesday for pursuing a European-based missile defense program while cutting money for one that's designed specifically to protect the United States.
At a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington, Rep. Mike Turner, who heads up the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee warned the Obama administration's focus on a Europe-based defense leaves the U.S. vulnerable in the event of a rogue attack by North Korea or Iran.
"The slow evolution that we are having with the phased adaptive approach is not sufficient to respond to the threat we have from North Korea and Iran," Turner says. "Our concern is that the threat is developing faster than the phased adaptive approach is going to be able to respond." [U.S. Displays Military Power in the Persian Gulf.]
In the early stages of the plan, the so-called European Phased Adaptive Approach focuses on defending against short-ranged and medium-ranged threats from Iran, but fails to develop long-range deterrents for the continental U.S. until 2020. Even then, the technology the administration plans to use has yet to be developed.
"This relies on an untested and uncreated system, which is just a gleam in the eye of a weapons designers," says Eric S. Edelman, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and former senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration. [U.S. News Debate Club: Are Cuts to the Defense Budget Necessary?]
Turner adds that the Obama administration is slow-rolling the home-based nuclear defense technology.
"We are not seeing a commitment by this administration for protection of the homeland. ... We've shifted to a European, regional protection system as opposed to a system that provides homeland security," Turner says. "And the administration continues to diminish our ground-base investment as we are depending currently on our missile defense in Alaska."
Turner says the administration's looming cuts have pushed the so-called Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system, like the one based in Alaska to intercept long-range missiles from Asia, to a later date.
"Anyone who supports missile defense, who supports missile defense of mainland United States, has to be a supporter of ground-based systems because it's the only one we have right now that supports the national security protection of the mainland United States," Turner argues.
Some experts have criticized the Ground-Based system as unreliable, arguing that 2008 was last time the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska underwent a successful test and saying the European-based approach is more realistic.
"Rep. Turner and his colleagues continue to criticize the Pentagon for not developing and deploying the GMD system quickly enough. Given the long and troubled history of the program, however, deploying newer technology before it is ready doesn't make sense and risks wasting billions of dollars," says Kingston Reif, the director of nuclear non-proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "Instead Turner should support the Pentagon in its efforts to determine the cause of the recent test failures and ensure that they're adequately resolved and corrected before rushing to buy and deploy additional costly interceptors."
But Turner counters that cutting funds is the worst thing to do.
"Whenever an issue is discovered that there is a problem, cutting funding to that system is not going to solve that problem," Turner says. "We should have had a much more aggressive testing process."