House Democrats held a hearing last week focusing on problems with U.S. missile defense. It included testimony from two Democratic critics, former Clinton administration defense testing official Philip Coyle and former Democrat congressional staff member Joseph Cirincione.
Rep. John F. Tierney, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform national security and foreign affairs subcommittee, said at the April 30 hearing that earlier panels had “raised very serious concerns about the effectiveness, efficiency, and even the need for our country’s current missile defense efforts.”
Countering the critics was Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, who said the missile defense opponents are mis- guided.
“The fact is that many of our critics disagree with the policy choice that we ought to deploy strategic or tactical systems to counter the ballistic missile threat,” Gen. Obering said. “They have other approaches, to include, denying that the threat exists, or using more destabilizing or destructive solutions.”
The Pentagon has a limited missile defense against long-range missiles with interceptors at bases in Alaska and California and is gradually developing better strategic defenses.
Gen. Obering quoted from a draft presidential memorandum that stated: “A number of arguments for deployment of a less-than-perfect ballistic missile defense are most persuasive. A ballistic missile defense, even though of limited capability, could be very effective against a simple attack by a minor power, a small accidental attack, or a small attack constrained by arms control measures.
“Such a defense would contribute to the deterrence of blackmail threats and to the stability of arms control agreements. A ballistic missile defense of limited capability would contribute to the deterrence of large attacks by raising doubts about the attacker’s ability to penetrate. Such a defense, even though limited, greatly complicates the design and tactics for offensive systems.”
The memorandum was dated Oct. 6, 1962, during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.
Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.