Missile defense terminal velocity leaves Hawaii exposed

Washington Times Editorial:

July 4 could be another day that will live in infamy. The Obama administration seized headlines June 18 when the Defense Department stated that the United States would deploy ground- and sea-based missile-defense assets to protect Hawaii. This was a response to North Korea's threat to launch a long-range missile on July 4 toward the islands. However, new information suggests that the administration is bluffing and our defenses are inadequate to get the job done.

Missile-defense expert Taylor Dinerman told us that the sea-based SM-3 missiles now deployed to "protect" Hawaii are not equipped with adequate software and communications to intercept a missile traveling from North Korea to Hawaii, which would reach a terminal velocity of Mach 23 to 25. The SM-3s are effective only against targets traveling at up to half that speed. It would take about $50 million to upgrade the software to enable a Mach 25 intercept. The Army's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, which also has been activated after successful tests at Barking Sands on Kauai, "doesn't come close" to being effective against this type of threat, Mr. Dinerman said.

The Obama administration is stuck in the past on missile defense, repeating worn-out arguments about unproven technologies and destabilizing effects. The Defense Department's 2010 budget proposal cut missile defense by $1.2 billion, and congressional Democrats rebuffed Republican attempts to restore the funding. Justification for the cuts was led by Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, California Democrat, who is the newly confirmed undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Ms. Tauscher will play a major role in missile-defense policy.

The cuts include scaling back the number of interceptors based at Fort Greely, Alaska, from 44 to 30. This cut is hard to justify given the proximity to North Korea and the fact that these interceptors actually could bring down one of its missiles (which may explain why Pyongyang is aiming for Hawaii). The Airborne Laser program has been downgraded to a research-and-development effort despite a recent successful test of its target-acquisition system. Taxpayers have invested about $5 billion to bring this advanced technology to the point of fruition.


The Democrats attitude toward missile defense could get a lot of liberals on the West Coast and Hawaii killed. Since I am something of a compassionate Conservative on this issue, I would prefer to see us protect West Coast liberals as well as conservatives.

For the money the Democrats were willing to throw away on stimulus and ACORN related activities we could fully fund missile defense and have money left over in the billions.

Opinion Journal notes:


In case you're not convinced about the threat, consider this exchange between Arizona Republican Trent Franks and Lieutenant-General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, in a hearing last month at the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces:

Rep. Franks: "Do you believe that the threat from long-range missiles has increased or decreased in the last six months as it relates to the homeland here?"

Gen. O'Reilly: "Sir, I believe it has increased significantly. . . . The demonstration of capability of the Iranian ability to put a sat[ellite] into orbit, albeit small, shows that they are progressing in that technology. Additionally, the Iranians yesterday demonstrated a solid rocket motor test which is . . . disconcerting. Third, the North Koreans demonstrated . . . that they are improving in their capacity and we are very concerned about that."


Democrats are just out of touch with reality on this issue.


  1. There would appear to be insufficient pork, in the $50 million dollar cost of a mach 25 intercept capability, to make it worthy of any congressman's attention.


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