Keeping Options Open

In the face of repeated questioning from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of US Northern Command, maintained that the United States can defend itself from a North Korean or Iranian long-range missile without opening a missile defense interceptor site on the US East Coast. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last week that the United States would deploy an additional 14 anti-missile interceptors to the site already established in Alaska to bolster defenses against North Korea and Iran. However, some lawmakers have argued that the eastern United States remains vulnerable to an Iranian attack without an East Coast interceptor site. Jacoby said during SASC’s March 19 oversight hearing the Defense Department wants to keep that option open for the future. “We currently can defend the entire United States from an Iranian long-range missile,” he said. “The question is, How do we stay ahead of the evolving Iranian threat and how do we keep our options open for the continued evolution of either Iranian or North Korean threats?” SASC Ranking Member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) questioned Jacoby’s comments, saying they seemed to contradict testimony given last week by Gen. Robert Kehler, US Strategic Command boss. (Jacoby’s written statement)