This afternoon in a Pentagon press conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey chastised House Republicans for passing a measure to provide funding for an East Coast missile defense system. In what seems to be an attempt to reclaim the mantle of the party of national security this election season, House Republicans included the provision in a bill passed today aimed at boosting military spending at the expense of needed social programs for the poor.
During the DOD presser today, Dempsey said he doesn’t “see a need” for the East Coast missile defense:
Q: The House has added $100 million for missile defense into the budget. Do you think that the East Coast needs a missile defense system. Do they need to do this survey that will cost $100 million that the Pentagon didn’t request or is this politically motivated? [...]
DEMPSEY: On ballistic missile defense, as you know we went through a strategic review in the fall and we mapped our budget to it and what I can tell you Jennifer is in my military judgement the program of record for ballistic missile defense for the homeland as we’ve submitted it is adequate and sufficient to the task and that’s a suite of ground based and sea based interceptors. So I don’t see a need beyond what we’ve submitted in the last budget.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH,) who supported the East Coast missile defense measure, claims it’s needed “to lessen the threats from both Iran and North Korea.” But the AP reports that Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, the head of the U.S. missile defense program, told Congress recently that North Korea lacks the testing for a capable system and has made little progress in its spaceflight program. And former CIA Mideast analyst Paul Pillar has noted that “the intelligence community does not believe [the Iranians] are anywhere close to having an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile].”
Moreover, as Dempsey hinted at in the press conference, Danger Room notes that existing systems already have the eastern sea board covered from ICBM threats.
“This is a political move,” said Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) referring to the GOP’s missile defense scheme. “Every time the election comes around, the Republicans run out a national security agenda.”