Missile Defenses Must Evolve With Threat, Northcom Chief Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 U.S. defenses are sufficient to stand up to current ballistic missile threats, but must continue to evolve because “the threat of ballistic missiles is not going down,” the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command told Congress today.
“We currently can defend the entire United States from an Iranian long-range missile threat,” Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. told the Senate Armed Forces Committee. “The question is, how do we stay ahead of the evolving Iranian threat, and how do we keep our options opened for the continued evolution of either Iranian or North Korean threats?”
Jacoby told the panel he supports Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to deploy an additional 14 ground-based interceptors in Alaska in light of the evolving missile threat from North Korea.
The current ballistic missile defense plan is based on limited “limited defense of the United States,” he said. “And given the threat that is represented by Iran to the eastern United States today, we can cover that threat. The question is making sure that we pace that threat as it evolves.”
That requires that the United States be prepared to continue improving the resilience, redundancy and agility of its missile defenses, Jacoby said. “We remain committed to improving current ballistic missile defense capabilities to ensure we maintain our strategic advantage and guarantee confidence in our ability to defeat evolving, more complex threats in the future,” he noted in his prepared remarks.
With that goal, Northcom is working closely with the Missile Defense Agency “to maintain the right balance in developing and testing missile defense technologies, while increasing our readiness to execute this critical mission set,” he said.
Jacoby reported ongoing efforts to improve the reliability of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System and the successful intercept flight test in January. In addition, he noted tests and exercises designed to evaluate the command’s capability against regional ballistic missile threats.
“We will continue to pursue effective and efficient methods to improve our ability to protect the homeland,” he told the committee. “Our citizens expect our vigilance and rigor to protect them from a missile attack on our soil. We work diligently to maintain their trust.”