Democrats' Cuts Would Set Back Missile Defense

When I took office as a new congressman in January, the words of the oath weighed heavily on me. Elected officials have a sworn duty, as the Constitution says, to “provide for the common defense.” Yet, I have grown increasingly concerned that the United States, despite much good work in the past five years, remains, in large part, undefended against ballistic missile attack. Even worse, potential funding cuts pushed by Democrats would set us back even further.

The President’s budget request for missile defense is $8.9 billion, but Democrats appear intent on slashing this proposed funding. Under Democratic leadership, $764 million was removed from the top line, thus further delaying the current long-range planning. During this year’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D.-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, cut $400 million from the Airborne Laser program, $85 million from the Space Tracking and Surveillance System, $80 million from Multiple Kill Vehicle and $10 million from the proposed Space Test-Bed.

Left Delays Development

These cuts would significantly delay the development of these vital programs and would all but eliminate the Airborne Laser Program, which would be a catastrophic blow to our missile defense system. Airborne laser, for instance, is vital because it is the best type of defense against enemy missiles in the boost phase.

In addition, it is likely that Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.) and others will continue their attempts to derail the missile defense system by cutting funds for the 3rd Site in Poland and the Czech Republic. These cuts would put us and our allies at a great disadvantage. The proposed new site would allow us to monitor and destroy an enemy missile headed for Europe or the United States.

It is a truly a dangerous world — and getting worse. North Korea defiantly staged missile tests on the Fourth of July a year ago. China successfully shot down one of its own satellites recently. Iran is in the headlines daily with its efforts to build or buy nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them. The EMP threat — a single, massive electromagnetic pulse that could disable all our computers and communications through a nuclear detonation in near space — is a matter of record from Congress’s own commission several years ago. Yet despite those dangers, our homeland is still woefully unprotected against missile attack by our enemies.

This troubling and perplexing state of affairs came about despite the best efforts of Ronald Reagan, whose commonsense assumption was that it would be better to save lives than to avenge them. Reagan began the Strategic Defense Initiative in the early 1980s, but after much research, no deployments were actually made. The program deemed most mature by the early 1990s, Brilliant Pebbles, was delayed by the first Bush Administration and cancelled altogether by the Clinton Administration.

In 1999, Congress passed, by a veto-proof margin, an act declaring it U.S. policy to deploy missile defenses to protect against limited attacks, whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate. But, although President Clinton signed the bill into law, for years no deployments would in fact take place. The old Cold War approach of mutually assured destruction remained largely intact.

In June 2002, under President George W. Bush, the United States withdrew from the rigid and outdated ABM Treaty. A few initial deployments in Alaska and California finally began by 2004. To date, 17 interceptors have now been put into silos at Forts Greeley and Vandenberg. Upgrades to our proven Aegis sea-based interceptors have also taken place. Both sea- and land-based systems have had impressive testing in recent years, so we know we have the capability to do even more.

How in the world can some Democrats fail to see the danger we face and fail to fully fund vital missile defenses? Some of them have argued that the cost is too high, but given the routine busting of the budget caused by each and every one of the Democrats’ appropriations bills, that argument rings hollow.

Others have argued that because missile defense is not perfect right off the bat, it should not be funded. This argument is likewise unpersuasive. These same Democrats rightly say that the body armor for soldiers should be widely available, even though it is not infallible. Partial protection is better than no protection, especially in the case of weapons of mass destruction.

Their only other arguments are that pursuing our own defense would either create an arms race or would weaponize space. Both arguments are based on the typical liberal worldview of over-estimating our opponent’s good intentions and assuming our own country’s bad intentions. It is obvious why Moscow and Beijing are apprehensive about American ingenuity’s being dedicated to shooting down missiles. What is not so obvious is why policy makers in our own country want to stifle our research and deployments.
To better educate members of Congress to the need for missile defense, four of us have just created a bipartisan missile defense caucus. Besides myself, the co-chairmen are Representatives Trent Franks of Arizona, Pete Sessions of Texas, and John Marshall, a blue dog Democrat from Georgia. We will use our best efforts to bring much-needed illumination to a debate that sometimes generates more heat than light.