Politics & Policy

Indefensible

An 800-million-dollar mistake in the making.

Last week in the House Armed Services Committee, I voted for the National Defense Authorization Act. While H.R. 1585 meets many of the needs of our valiant men and women in uniform, I remain very concerned about the severe funding cuts it would make in critical missile-defense programs. I offered three amendments that would restore necessary funding for those programs including one that would restore the entire amount they slashed. However, the Democrats resolutely rejected them and even used procedural tactics to block a vote on an amendment our ranking member Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) offered stating that the sense of Congress is to develop and deploy a layered and robust missile-defense system capable of intercepting missiles in boost, midcourse, and terminal phases of flight.

Congress is obligated to ensure that the Department of Defense develops and deploys defensive capabilities that protect the American people, our war fighters, and our allies who want to work with us. Iran is expected to have missiles capable of reaching the U.S. homeland in less than eight years, North Korea continues to defiantly test long-range missiles, and proliferation throughout the Middle East is rampant. Despite these threats, H.R. 1585 cuts almost $800 million in funding that would help close the gaps in our missile defense system.

It is necessary that our system is fully capable of intercepting missiles. This legislation fails to recognize the need to robustly fund systems that defend against missiles in their boost phase of flight in order to interdict an enemy’s missile before it releases its warhead and while it is on enemy territory. We must support programs that have already proven to be successful, but we must also continually modernize our systems to meet the developing threats.

Moreover, this bill heavily emphasizes the need to engage NATO in discussions regarding the deployment of a missile-defense system and in particular the development of a European interceptor site. I agree that it is important to engage U.S. allies in our mission to develop a strong missile defense. We begin formal negotiations on the European site this month with our friends in Poland and the Czech Republic. We already have bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and are working closely with Israel; however, the concentration on NATO in this bill is more than troubling. The responsibility of Congress is to legislate in a way that defends the U.S. first and foremost. I was reminded of this fact by a letter recently sent to me from the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense, Mary Beth Long, which stated, “The Department of Defense knows of no U.S. weapons systems or other U.S. actions that relate to the defense of the U.S. homeland that are or would be referred to the North Atlantic Council (NAC) for NATO approval…” This Congress must not seek international favor at the expense of U.S. sovereignty and security.

While there may be disagreement between Democrats and Republicans regarding the circumstances under which our offensive military capabilities should be utilized, building a defense against looming threats should be a bipartisan effort. In this age when we know all too well that U.S. enemies are willing to terrorize innocent people by using themselves and their children as living bombs, it is foolish to think they will be deterred by the promise of overwhelming offensive retaliation, should they strike an American city with a missile. We must not be caught off guard when the price in lives is so high.

In last November’s elections the American people entrusted the Democrats with the responsibility to provide adequate resources to defend the nation. This defense bill, in its current form, does not fully meet this responsibility. The full House must address its deficiencies.

— Trent Franks is a Republican congressman from Arizona who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

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