Bradley Roberts, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, recently testified before a House of Representative Armed Services subcommittee, touting Obama’s plan for missile defense in Europe. His testimony is more noteworthy for the facts he conveniently left out.
CLAIM: Hearkening back to Obama’s campaign promise to give Americans “proven and cost-effective ” missile defense, Roberts boasted “….the Obama administration was putting ‘proven’ sea-based and land-based missile shields into Europe as quickly as possible as part of a revised shield announced last September to any Iranian ballistic-missile strike.”
FACT CHECK: The European Missile Defense proposed by the Bush administration was already proven technology. The “third-site” option would have used a two-stage variant of a three-stage missile already tested and deployed at sites in California and Alaska. The President, in effect, killed a proven technology option when he canceled the Bush plan for a missile defense system in Europe that would have protected both Americans and Europeans from a long-range Iran missile threat.
CLAIM: Roberts claims the Obama system will be in place by 2018.
FACT CHECK: The president has rejected the “spiral development” program that was used to speed ballistic missile programs, meaning the administration’s timelines may be overly optimistic. The President has nominated Philip Coyle, a leading critic of missile defense testing to key oversight position in the Pentagon, a move that if approved by the Senate would likely delay testing and deployment further.
CLAIM: Roberts failed to mention that President Obama requires missile defense systems to be “cost effective.”
FACT CHECK: Authoritative studies, including one conducted by the government-sponsored Institute for Defense Analyses, concluded that the land-based interceptors President Obama canceled were cost-effective.
CLAIM: Roberts stated Obama’s system would cover “100 percent” of Europe, while the land-based site proposed under President Bush would have covered “only 75 percent.”
FACT CHECK: That was not a lie, but it is completely misleading. The Bush plan would have covered 100 percent of Europe using both the land-based interceptors plus other systems including the sea-based Aegis, THAAD, and Patriot. In addition, the Bush administration had already started examining the feasibility of land-based mobile version of the SM-3 missile used by Aegis. The difference between the plans is that the Bush Administration’s plan would have been in place faster, with more proven technology, more redundancy, and likely at a cheaper cost. Thus, all the Obama Administration did was cut part of the missile defense umbrella—not add to it.
CLAIM: Roberts never mentioned that even under the most conservative timelines Iran could have both a missile and a nuclear weapon by 2018.
FACT CHECK: If there are any delays in U.S. deployments then both Europe and the U.S. will be at risk. Under the Bush Administration’s proposal, the land-based missile interceptors would have been deployed in 2013. Last year, after the change of administration Secretary Gates suddenly changed the Pentagon estimate claiming the land-based interceptors would not be available until 2017, an assessment that conveniently coincided with Obama’s desire to dump the third site. Recently, Secretary Gates declared in a classified memo linked to the Washington Post that the US lacked an effective plan to stop the Iranian nuclear program. He also stated that Iran might have a nuclear bomb in a year. Yet, the US has till opted for “phased and adaptive” approach to missile defense rather than pushing full speed ahead to cut off the Iranian threat.
The administration’s position on missile defense coupled with a nuclear disarmament strategy that strengthens Russia’s hand; gives Moscow a veto over US missile defenses; and limits the ability to adopt to new nuclear threats as they emerge–makes the risk of nuclear conflict more, not less likely.