9 May 2013
WASHINGTON - The head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency on Wednesday turned down a Republican proposal to supply an extra $250 million for use in establishing a third ballistic missile interceptor site in the United States.
The Defense Department is studying potential locations for another silo-based interceptor site. The issue has taken on a heated importance for Republicans who contend the East Coast is vulnerable to a strategic ballistic missile attack from Iran should it develop such a capability.
Republicans succeeded in requiring through the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that the U.S. military study options for establishing a third interceptor site that would complement two existing installations in Alaska and California under the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. At least two of the possible studied locations for the site must be on the East Coast. The act set aside $100 million for the study.
Last week, 16 GOP members on the House Armed Service Committee laid out plans to authorize $250 million in funding in the fiscal 2014 NDAA bill for “site design, missile complex development and installation of hardware and software, and [Ground-based Interceptor] procurement for the site,” according to a press release from Representative Mike Turner (R-Ohio). The HASC members have asked their counterparts on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee to allocate the same amount of money for the project.
Asked directly by Representative John Garamendi (D-Calif.) whether "an additional $250 million in the 2014 NDAA [would] be of use to you in the process that you have under way,” Vice Adm. James Syring responded: “Not at this time.”
Turner’s office said the $250 million figure is based on budget recommendations made by the Missile Defense Agency in a March 2012 presentation.
“I'm conducting a very extensive citing study as directed by the NDAA, and that process is ongoing,” Syring told the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, adding later that “literally hundreds of sites have been considered.”
The MDA head said he is working toward narrowing the possibilities to just three locations by “the end of the summer, maybe as late as September.”
“The timetable that we're working to is once we decide on a site by the end of this calendar year, 18 to 24 months for an environmental impact study on that site, and then site construction and subsequent additional GBI procurements, if so dictated by the department,” said Syring, who formerly lead the Navy’s Integrated Warfare Systems program.
The vice admiral also confirmed that he has been asked by the Defense secretary’s office for guidance on whether particular missile defense information such as the speed of U.S. interceptors is classified or unclassified.
Republicans oppose any effort by the Obama administration to provide Russia with technical data about U.S. antimissile capabilities.
The Pentagon in March 2012 acknowledged it was considering the merits of furnishing Moscow with classified data on the “velocity at burnout” of U.S. Standard Missile 3 interceptors planned for fielding in Europe. Russia raised strident objections to missile deployment, seeing a serious risk to its own long-range nuclear forces.
The Obama administration reportedly hoped that providing Moscow with the data would show that the U.S. interceptors are not fast enough to challenge Russian ICBMs. The ensuing Republican outcry to the news, however, led the administration to quietly place the issue on the back burner while it focused on winning re-election in November.
“I have not been asked to declassify anything to Russia,” said Syring,
who formally took up his position as MDA head in November. “I have had
discussions with the secretary of Defense policy group on what information
is classified and what is not classified and that guidance has been adhered
to 100 percent.”