A possible east coast site for interceptors for the current U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) national missile defense system was the subject of multiple questions at Thursday’s (May 9, 2013) hearing of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Administration and military officials emphasized that the east coast of the United States was already protected by the current GMD system. They also said that if a decision to deploy such an east coast interceptor site was made, it would take five to seven years to build and would also involve the deployment of a new X-band radar in the eastern United States.
Senator Mark Udall began by asking Lt. General Richard Formica (Commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, of the U.S. Strategic Command): “Secretary of Defense Hagel, Admiral Winnefeld and General Jacoby have all said recently that the current ground- based midcourse defense system defends all of the U.S., including the East Coast, against missile threats from both North Korea and Iran. In your capacity as commander within Strategic Command, you represent the warfighter perspective on our missile defense capabilities and requirements. Do you have confidence in our current GMD system to defend all of the United States, including the East Coast, against current and near-term ballistic missile threats from both North Korea and Iran?”
General Formica replied: “Yes, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the question. We do have confidence in the ability of the ballistic missile defense system to defend the United States against a limited attack from both North Korea and Iran today and in the near future. “
Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Defense Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs, added (referring to the additional fourteen interceptors in Alaska that the Administration announced in March): “The East Coast is well-protected as the result of — well, it was protected before the additional — and this additional fourteen provides additional protection both for anything from North Korea as well as anything from Iran should that threat develop.”
In response to a question from Senator Deb Fischer, General Formica stated (referring to the required Environmental Impact Statement) that “depending on the assumptions and how fast the EIS goes, five to seven years” would be needed to deploy an east coast interceptor site, with eighteen to twenty four months of this time needed for the Environmental Impact Statement. He also estimated that about 500 military and civilian personnel would be required to operate the site.
(A day earlier, in a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Representative Doug Lamborn urged Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring to recommend that President Obama waive the requirement for an environmental impact statement in order to speed up the possible deployment of the east coast site. Admiral Syring seemed to be unaware that this was possible (and I don’t know if it is either)).
General Formica also indicated that such a deployment would involve a new X-band radar in the eastern United States:
Senator Fischer: “OK. And would such a site benefit from the deployment of an X-band radar on the East Coast?”
General Formica: “Yes, ma’am. Back to my point on sensoring and assessment and discrimination capability, an X-band radar, frankly, anywhere east would greatly benefit the threat that I and we in the agency see coming. And certainly that would be part of it.”