Missile defense and START
The director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency told a Senate hearing this week that the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will not constrain U.S. missile defenses.
Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, the agency’s chief, told the Senate Armed Ser vices Committee that missile defenses remain a key element of U.S. national security and “the New START treaty has no constraints on current and future components of the [ballistic missile defense system] development or deployment.”
The treaty bans converting ICBMs or submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers to missile defense launchers but allows using the five former ICBM silos at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California that were converted for groundbased interceptors (GBI) that are currently in place, Gen. O’Reilly said.
The Pentagon did not plan additional ICBM silo conversions at Vandenberg and its hedge for emerging missile threats by finishing a missile field at Fort Greely, Alaska, he said. “Moreover, we determined that if more interceptors were to be added at Vandenberg AFB, it would be less expensive to build a new GBI missile field, which is not prohibited by the treaty,” the general said, adding that converting submarine launchers into missile defense was “unattractive and extremely expensive.”
Gen. O’Reilly said the New START “actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program.”
“Unless they have New START-accountable first stages (which we do not plan to use), our targets will no longer be subject to START constraints, which limited our use of air-to-surface and waterborne launches of targets which are essential for the costeffective testing of missile defense interceptors against [medium-range ballistic missile] and [intermediate-range ballistic missile] targets in the Pacific area,” he said.
The treaty also will remove limits on space launch facilities for target launches.
E-mail Bill Gertz at [email protected]ingtontimes.com.