Missile Defense Agency Promises 'Aggressive' Review After Latest Failed Test

The FY 2014 budget request includes two intercept tests.

"The threat is continuing to proliferate. The threat is becoming more sophisticated in both numbers and capability. It's important that we stay ahead of the threat, as we are today. And the way we do that -- and let me break it down into two separate areas: regional defense and homeland defense," Syring said.

"We need to start to change the costs calculus and the costs curve. We can't just keep building bigger interceptors and more interceptors. And that's where we'll get into some of the advanced technology work that we're pursuing."

Syring confirmed that the agency is currently testing "in a way that's representative of a trajectory or a threat missile that would come from a country such as North Korea."

"The last test that we did was very similar to that in terms of speed and altitude. And it was actually the longest range intercept test that we had tried," he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) lobbied for her home state, a possible site mentioned for new ground-based interceptors.

"A 2012 report by the National Research Council concluded that there are gaps in our nation's ballistic missile defense system, particularly when it comes to protecting the East Coast. Alaska's going to be fine, but Maine is -- there's a real gap," she said.

Durbin said the conversations about more silos in Alaska and missile defense for the East Coast still didn't answer why we haven't had a successful intercept test in five years.

"I'm trying to reconcile the appetite of Congress to keep spending more money with the actual results of testing. I want this country to be safe, and I believe if we had a ground missile defense system that worked, we would be a safer nation, period," he said.

"The notion that we're committing ourselves to 14 more interceptors in a year or two when we haven't really flown, we're buying before we fly, we haven't really proven that these interceptors can work. How do you reconcile that?" The cost of the 14 additional interceptors is $75 billion each.

Syring argued that the intercept tests "all the way up to the point of failure did everything they needed to do."

He acknowledged that North Korea's successful launch of a space-bound version of the Taepodong-2 last December showed that the DPRK's technology "took a step."

"We must continue to monitor that, sir, and not count that it won't be successful," Syring said. "We must plan that it will be successful and we must be able to maintain our defense of the country."