Republican Lawmakers Finger First Missile Test Failure Culprit: Barack Obama

A US missile like this one failed to intercept a target missile on July 5. GOP lawmakers believe the Obama administration has cut missile defense funds too deeply, and holds ample blame for the failure. (Photo: Missile Defense Agency)

Four senior pro-defense US Republican lawmakers have identified what they believe to be one of the chief culprits of a recent Pentagon missile test failure: Barack Obama.

In a letter sent Friday to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Republican lawmakers accuse the Democratic president and his administration with putting the Pentagon’s ground-based midcourse defense (GMD) program “on life support.”

The GOP group, led by Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe of Oklahoma and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, expressed to Hagel their “concern over the failure.” And they acknowledge that “it may take some time to reach a final diagnosis of the cause of the July 5 test failure.”

To that end, they want Missile Defense Agency brass to report back with “an action plan to resolve the cause of the failure of the recent missile defense test, conduct a new intercept test of that system, and … provide a clear roadmap for the development and fielding of a next-generation kill vehicle.”

The four GOP members made clear they believe Obama holds a big share of the blame.

“It is already clear that President Obama’s decision to drastically cut funding for the GMD program since he came to office,” the Republicans wrote.

“Since the successful 2008 GMD test, there have been only three attempted intercept tests and two flight tests conducted in over four and one-half years,” the lawmakers said.

“One need only reflect that in 2008, funding for GMD was just over $2 billion, whereas by 2012, GMD was reduced to just half that total and continues to decline over the next five years,” the lawmakers wrote. “Such funding cuts have touched every facet of the GMD program, including its maintenance.”

Pentagon officials announced late last week that a missile interceptor failed to hit a target over the Pacific Ocean. It was the latest setback for a costly program just as the sequestration era is set to shrink US defense budgets for a decade.

The missile interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and was supposed to take down ballistic missile shot from the Marshall Islands. The failure was the latest in a string that dates back to 2008.

Inhofe, McKeon, and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittees, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Jeff Session of Alabama — US missile manufacturers have a big presence in the “Yellowhammer State”– want more tests after the failure.

“We are in agreement with Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, the head of Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, who recently stated that it is important to ‘re-test as soon as feasible’.”

The lawmakers note the Pentagon, “at the prompting of Congress,” is developing a new kill vehicle for its fleet of ground-based interceptor missiles.

“Regardless of the causes of the recent flight test failures, we encourage you to make the development and deployment of a new kill vehicle one of your highest priorities,” the quartet wrote.

The Pentagon has around 30 interceptors on the West Coast. The Obama administration recently announced its intention to erect 14 more in Alaska and California. Collectively, the price tag for erecting and operating those is in the tens of billions of dollars.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett