Under the Radar, Dems Inexplicably Block Missile Defense (Updated)
Perhaps no part of the Obama administration's planned Defense Department budget makes less sense than its effort to slash $1.2B from missile defense programs for FY 2010.
In light of the recent behavior of North Korea and the reminder that we face the prospect of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state in Iran, a group of Republican congressmen on the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday offered a series of amendments seeking to reverse the proposed cuts.
Sources on the Committee tell Pajamas Media that the Committee Democrats blocked the amendments -- seemingly unaware that earlier in the day Obama had deemed North Korea's nuclear ambitions to be a "grave threat" or that administration officials were reporting that North Korea could have an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. west coast within five years. Minority Whip Eric Cantor told Pajamas Media: "As we watch what is going on with North Korea and the brutal regime in Iran, Democrat efforts to cut missile defense programs are not only misguided, but dangerous. As our enemies ramp up, it makes no sense to cut important defense and national security programs."
As detailed by the Republican House Armed Services Committee website, the proposed amendments included:
Restore $120 million to Continue Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) Fielding in Alaska. The Obama administration cut funding for missile interceptors scheduled to be deployed. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), the ranking member of the Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, offered an amendment to restore $120 million in funding to allow the Department of Defense to continue fielding 44 interceptors and complete construction of Missile Field 2 in Alaska.
Restore the Obama Administration's $1.2 Billion Cut to the National Missile Defense System. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) offered an amendment to restore completely the $1.2 billion that the Obama administration cut from the national missile defense system. The amendment included authorization to fully fund the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system and emplace all 44 interceptors. It also funds the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor, the Multiple Kill Vehicle, and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, all systems that were cut in the administration's budget request.
Restore Funding for Long-Range Missile Defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) offered an amendment to secure $500 million in the Missile Defense Agency budget for a missile defense system in Europe to protect the U.S. homeland and our European allies.
Prohibit Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) Booster Termination. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO) offered language to require the Department of Defense to suspend the recent termination of the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program until Congress receives a scientific report on boost-phase Missile Defense programs. This report was mandated by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act. The Bishop-Lamborn amendment would also require the Department of Defense to continue the planned KEI booster test firing this year.
Restore Funding for the Airborne Laser Program. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) offered an amendment to restore $237 million to the Airborne Laser Program, to be used for emergency operational capability, testing, and to enhance multi-mission capability.
What happened? The Democrats parried and blocked all of these amendments.
This is the triumph of bean-counting over common sense. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been given his budget number by the White House and the president's Democratic allies in Congress are doing everything possible to adhere to the White House's edicts, regardless of the ramifications for national security.
Of course, no such fiscal discipline is applied to domestic programs.
Well before recent events, Tom Donnelly and Gary Schmitt of AEI explained in a Wall Street Journal article:
The proposed cuts in space and missile defense programs reflect a retreat in emerging environments that are increasingly critical in modern warfare. The termination of the Airborne Laser and Transformational Satellite programs is especially discouraging.
The Airborne Laser is the most promising form of defense against ballistic missiles in the "boost phase," the moments immediately after launch when the missiles are most vulnerable. This project was also the military's first operational foray into directed energy, which will be as revolutionary in the future as "stealth" technology has been in recent decades. The Transformational Satellite program employs laser technology for communications purposes, providing not only enhanced bandwidth -- essential to fulfill the value of all kinds of information networks -- but increased security.
Their analysis is all the more persuasive as we now witness an outbreak of bellicosity from the North Koreans and a potential uprising against the theocratic regime in Iran. Nevertheless, the White House and its Congressional allies remain unmoved and refused on Tuesday to restore funding for the missile defense programs which have fallen under the budget-cutting knife.
A Capitol Hill advisor closely following events on the Senate side is slack-jawed, telling Pajamas Media:
At a moment when North Korea is launching missiles with the regularity of the Washington Nationals losing ballgames, it is patently absurd, reckless, and irresponsible to cut funding for missile defense. This is a moment to significantly bolster the program to protect America and send a message to the thugs in Pyongyang that we are doing more than merely passing ineffectual resolutions at the UN.
As these observers point out, it is simply not rational, given the threats we face, to undertake unilateral reductions in programs which could lead to important improvements in national defense -- or at the very least complicate the planning of rogue states. And given the fact the president prefers not to undertake direct military action except as a last resort (an entirely reasonable position) it is baffling that we are rejecting other means to deter the threats which day by day seem to multiply.
Let's be honest: $1.2B is a drop in the bucket for this administration -- 0.15 percent of the waste-ridden and ill-conceived $787B stimulus bill. If we have $787B to throw down the proverbial rat hole, we certainly can find $1.2B to help protect ourselves and our allies against a North Korean or Iranian missile attack. If not, then it is fair to conclude there is something seriously wrong -- or rather something terribly unserious -- with the priorities of the Congress and the administration.