House Panel Hears Conflicting Views on Missile Defense

A House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing July 23 heard sharply varying views on the status and need for the nation’s ballistic missile defense program, with the witnesses and the panel members tilted to the pro-defense side. Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) repeatedly stated the need for a more robust missile defense against the emerging threats from North Korean and Iran and the renewed tensions with Russia. He was supported by Robert Joseph, an undersecretary of defense for arms control for President George W. Bush, who criticized President Barack Obama’s funding cuts for missile defense program, noted Russia’s increased spending on ballistic missiles, and urged research into directed energy and space-based defenses. Former CIA director and arms control negotiator James Woolsey agreed, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “a thug” and warning about the danger to the electrical grid from a low-order nuclear explosion. Phillip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons test director now with an arms control organization, supported a missile defense system against limited attack, but said the nation could not build a defense against a full Russian missile assault. Ranking member Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), called for “a more balanced witness panel.”