Last Friday, millions of Americans from Illinois to the Delmarva Peninsula were hit by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) missile: no lights, no air conditioning, no Internet, no cellphones and no refrigerators for their insulin. Actually, it was a storm called a “derecho,” but its effects were similar to that of an EMP missile. EMP? Look it up. It will horrify you. But then, you think, if it had been an EMP warhead, our homeland missile defense system would have destroyed it — right? Wrong.
According to a Rasmussen poll conducted in April, 40 percent of American voters believe we have an effective system to shoot down missiles aimed at our homeland. Those voters have been misinformed by the Obama White House. Yes, there is a system with four interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and 20 more at Fort Greeley in Alaska. When they work, they are what protect us from North Korean and Chinese missiles. But West Coast interceptors do nothing to defend the U.S. from attacks from the south, nor do they guard the East Coast from the missile-carrying ships that Iran has often threatened to bring close to our shores.
Nevertheless, in February 2010 the Obama administration released a report claiming that our missile technologies have produced a reliable and robust defense for the United States. Three months later, in May, the non-partisan Arms Control Association said that the report was “nothing more than a fiction.”
Adding to the failures and smokescreens, President Obama’s 2013 budget slashes $810 million from current missile defense programs, plus a staggering $3.6 billion cut over the next five years.
Congressman Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said in April that the president’s drastic cuts are “consistent with what candidate Obama said in the 2008 campaign — that he doesn’t ‘agree with a missile defense system.’” We just weren’t listening back then.
But there still is a way to rapidly assemble a defense against missile threats from North Korea, China and the long-range missile base Iran is building in Venezuela. President Obama knows that way, and he is using it to build a real anti-missile defense system. Problem is, he’s building it for Europe, not America. It is called the European Phased Adaptive Approach, with 24 ICBM interceptors in Romania and 24 in Poland. They will be operative in 36 months, after American taxpayers foot the entire enormous cost of President Obama’s latest contribution to the defense of Europe.
The European missile shield will work because it depends on shore-based versions of the U.S. Navy’s Aegis system, which features the SM-3 — the spectacular Standard Missile. The Standard Missile is a proven missile-killer, with 21 successful intercepts. A week ago its newest version, the SM-3/1B, detected and destroyed a warhead over Hawaii even after it separated from the larger missile body. The Obama administration’s 2013 budget rewards those successes by slashing $300 million from the 1B program, cutting production to just 29 missiles instead of the planned 62. At the same time, the budget adds $224 million to start designing an experimental missile that will ultimately cost billions and will not result in a single interceptor until 2021, if then.
All these bewildering decisions disturb members of both houses of Congress. Along with Congressman Turner, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) warned against budget cuts to the IB program in favor of design experiments. He said, “We have gone from a bird in the hand for two in the bush …” Other fiscal watchdogs are alarmed, too. In an open letter to Congress, the National Taxpayers Union, plus five other non-partisan groups, warned of the risks to our national security that the White House’s missile budget poses.
The United States must supplement the ground-based missile systems in California and Alaska with Aegis and an adequate number of the SM-3/1Bs, to defend us from North Korea and communist China. We need the same defense on the Gulf Coast against Iran’s missiles in Venezuela, and also on the East Coast to shield us from Iranian EMP missiles launched from close in-shore naval or merchant ships.
President Obama should tell the Europeans to pay for their own defense, and then fix his missile budget. He must protect America first. Otherwise, the next blackout might not be caused by a derecho, but by an EMP missile.
Chet Nagle is a Naval Academy graduate, a former senior Defense Department official, and the author of Iran Covenant.