Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 23 unveiled a new “Pledge to America” policy agenda that includes freezing nonmilitary spending and restoring missile defense funding that it says is needed to protect the United States from a ballistic missile attack from Iran.
“There is real concern that while the threat from Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles could materialize as early as 2015, the government’s missile defense policy is not projected to cover the U.S. homeland until 2020,” the document states. “We will work to ensure critical funding is restored to protect the U.S. homeland and our allies from missile threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.”
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama last year overhauled plans for defending European allies and deployed forces from ballistic missiles. Under the previous administration’s plan, ground-based interceptors were to be placed in Poland in 2013. Obama’s plan will be implemented in four phases, starting with deploying Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships to European waters as soon as 2011 to defend against short- and medium-range threats.
A new Aegis interceptor capable of defeating ICBMs is not planned to be ready until 2020. With the most recent U.S. intelligence estimates stating that Iran could have an ICBM capability by 2015, House Republicans say the United States may face a five-year vulnerability to an Iranian ICBM.
The United States is currently protected from ICBM attacks by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which has interceptor missiles deployed in Alaska and California. U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in 2009 this system has a 92 percent likelihood of defeating an incoming Iranian ICBM. Deploying the previous administration’s European missile defense system would have increased that likelihood by 3 or 4 percentage points, Cartwright said.