Today, the House Armed Services Committee was marking up the FY 2010 budget for the Defense Department. The liveliest debate was over Congressman Turner’s (R-OH) amendment to re-insert $120 million to fund the remaining 14 ground-based interceptors. For the past several years, the plan was to have 44 interceptors dispersed among California and Alaska bases. As of right now, we have 30. Because the House Armed Services Committee rejected Congressman Turner’s amendment, the Department of Defense will stop any further deployment of the 14 interceptors. Defense Secretary Gates spurred the decision when he said that the current number of interceptors (30) is sufficient to protect against the North Korean threat. The same Secretary Gates who budgeted for and approved the construction of 44 interceptors the year before. Over the past year, the threat has increased, so why would it be sensible to reduce the number of planned interceptors from 44 to 30?
Regarding the financial aspect, all fourteen holes have been dug, most of the equipment has been purchased, and the project is under way. The US has already spent $235 million on these remaining 14 interceptors. It would take another $120 million to finish the deployment of these 14 interceptors. In addition, if DOD does not deploy the 14 interceptors, they will be charged a $75 million cancellation fee. So in reality, the DOD and Congress is gambling American security to save $55 million. This is not even a drop in the bucket, compared to the overall FY 2010 missile defense budget of $9.3 billion and the overall defense budget is $562 billion. American tax payers should not pay $310 million for nothing.
Simply put, it is too late to backtrack. Even if Secretary Gates decided that 30 interceptors is what is necessary, we’ve already paid out more than what it would cost to finish this project. Finishing the 14 interceptors does not hurt us, and is not that much costlier. Logically, Congress should finish this project, and ensure that America is safe in a time when potential threats are becoming more aggressive.