The U.S. military has no need for an East Coast missile defense site, according to top officers who oversee the weaponry.
"There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site," Navy Vice Adm. J.D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, wrote in a June 10 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released a copy of the letter, as well as his initial request asking the officers for their judgment on the proposal. The correspondence comes a day before the full panel is to begin amending, or marking up, its version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation sets policy goals and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The move sets up a fight between Levin and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. The House Armed Services Committee last week voted in favor of legislation to fund development of the installation, which is estimated to cost at least $3 billion.
The U.S. missile-defense system includes sea, ground, air and space components designed to intercept ballistic missiles during any phase of flight. Major contractors include Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the land-based component, includes missiles stored in silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
In an overview of the proposed legislation, McKeon said both the Obama and Bush administrations have supported the need for an additional homeland missile defense site.
The military officers said they oppose Congress mandating the creation of missile defense silos on the East Coast before the completion of an environmental impact review mandated in this year's legislation. They also said investing in the Ballistic Missile Defense System, or BMDS, and enhanced sensor technology would be more cost-effective.
"While a potential East Coast site would add operational capability, it would also come at a significant materiel development and service sustainment cost," Syring and Formica wrote.
The Defense Department in April proposed cutting more than a half-billion dollars from missile defense for fiscal 2014 even amid heightened concern over belligerent statements from the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un.
The Pentagon plans to spend $9.16 billion on ballistic missile defense in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, according to budget documents. That’s $558 million, or 5.7 percent, less than the $9.72 billion it requested for this year. The figures don’t take into account automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, which took effect March 1.