As reported yesterday, Democrats in Congress, following the dictates of the Obama White House, are blocking efforts by House Republicans to restore $1.2B in cuts for missile defense programs. Republican Congressmen Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Michael Turner (R-OH) were in the forefront of the losing battle and talked to Pajamas Media about what Franks dubs the “profound lack of insight” in cutting programs at the very time that rogue states like North Korea and Iran are ramping up efforts to obtain and deploy nuclear weapons.
Franks says this is nothing new. “When Ronald Reagan first came up with the idea of a system to defend the country from nuclear attack rather than enact revenge, the liberal side did everything they could to make fun of him and criticize him, ” he recalls. “Ever since, liberals have been committed to criticize or suppress missile defense — not on the basis of its efficacy but on political grounds. That’s a tragedy.”
Franks notes that during the campaign, Obama promised that he would reduce missile defense. The congressman observes that unfortunately “that is one of the few promises they have kept.” Franks, borrowing the 1960s phrase, observes that the “whole world is watching” how America responds to rogue state threats. He declares that it concerns him greatly that we are not taking the opportunity to pursue viable missile defense strategies which would “devalue” nuclear weapons and thereby assist in non-proliferation efforts.
In the committee on Tuesday, Franks says that there was fulsome debate, but that Democrats are “forcing false choices” in defense spending to meet the White House’s budgetary directives. With obvious frustration he declares, “We can find $787B to spend on unbelievable projects — $10B on environmental cleanup — but we couldn’t find $1.2B for missile defense.”
It was ironic, he says, that on the very day the president was meeting with the president of South Korea to declare that North Korea poses a “grave risk,” the committee was meeting to cut missile defense. In fact, he read to his colleagues the wire report of the president’s remarks, but the amendments to restore funding “lost on party line votes no matter what the logic and reason.” He dubbed this “one of the greatest disappointments in my congressional life.”
In particular, he points to airborne laser technology which will be reduced to no more than a research project if the Democratic cuts are not reversed. Franks contends, “This is a giant, giant paradigm shift that will someday be to missile defense what the silicon chip was to computers.”
His colleague from Ohio is equally frustrated with the Democrats’ actions. Turner explains, “They claim the issue was monetary but obviously they have no concern with spending anywhere but on defense.” It is not an issue of technology or whether these programs might bear fruit, he points out, because Democrats are not eliminating these programs, only reducing the funding.
Turner, like Franks, finds the timing noteworthy. “They are taking their action [to reduce funding] while a missile is sitting on a launch pad in North Korea that media and our Pentagon reports say could be an ICBM missile.”
As for the funding, he notes that continuing to field 44 interceptors and complete construction of Missile Field 2 in Alaska would require only $120M, after $32M has already been spent to date. “You would think you wouldn’t waste the investment,” he remarks.
The issue, he says, is one of priorities. “They seem absolutely unquenchable on their spending except in the area of national security,” he observes.
The battle is not over however. Franks says, “I still have hope” — and recalls that two years ago cuts made in committee were restored before the defense spending was finalized. And Turner believes that the public will be engaged once they understand the issue. “If we have the technology and the know-how, everyone expects us to deploy it, ” he says. He believes this is not a hypothetical threat. “This is a known threat the American people are aware of.”
Ahead is a vote on the House floor when Republicans intend to once again raise the issue of cuts to missile defense programs. Then it is on to the Senate where Turner say s he is “hopeful” that money can be restored to the programs. There, Republicans may find some bipartisan support from senators like Independent Joe Lieberman and Alaska Democrat Mark Beglich who have already taken up the cause of restoring funds for missile defense.
The issue for Congress, the White House, and the American people remains: why would we decide now, of all times, to slash viable missile defense programs that could protect the U.S. and its allies from the threat of nuclear attack?