Young lashes out at Congress over missile defense
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Rep. Don Young took his colleagues to task Tuesday for proposed cuts to the Missile Defense Agency at the same time North Korea appears to be preparing to test launch a long-range missile that could strike Alaska.
Young's admonition came a day after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates toured missile silos at Fort Greely and defended his move not to add any more interceptor missiles there.
"I just hope that we're not caught, pardon the pun, with our pants down if they launch that missile and it lands in Alaska," Young said.
With North Korea on the offensive Young says it's the wrong step to scale back on missile defense, and he says his colleagues on Capitol Hill just don't get it.
"I've watched the Congress, it's kind of like, 'this can't happen' or, 'this won't happen,' and that's very, what I call, a lax attitude," Young said. "It's probably going to take the launching of that missile to really bring home the necessity of finishing Greely."
Gates, who took over the Defense Department under President George W. Bush and was held over by President Barack Obama, says 30 interceptor missiles divvyed up between two sites -- Alaska's Fort Greely and California's Vandenberg Air Force Base in California -- is enough.
"I would say that if there was a launch from a rogue state such as North Korea, I have good confidence that we would be able to deal with it," Gates said Monday at Fort Greely.
Sen. Mark Begich accompanied Gates on the tour and said he's more focused on long-term national security.
"I think we're having good discussion, I'll say that," Begich said. "As the secretary said, this is the 2010 budget, this is the long term we're interested in to make sure we have the full complement of what we're going to do in defense of our country."
Begich released a statement on Tuesday pushing for the continued fielding of the final 14 interceptor missiles.
"I made the case (Monday) to Defense Secretary Gates on our tour ... as we need a fully deployed system to adequately protect Alaska, Hawaii and the rest of the country against rogue nations like North Korea," the statement said.
Young wrote Gates asking him to reconsider his plan.
"I think this is a bad mistake not to build the second phase at Fort Greely," Young said. "Especially with (North) Korea about ready to, or possibly could, launch a missile that could reach Alaskan shores."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski also issued a statement on Tuesday.
"Stopping the construction of a missile field mid-stream with silos already in the ground and the missiles to fill those silos already constructed is an extraordinary reversal of course and it should be accompanied by an extraordinary justification," she said.
Murkowski added that "... Gates does not appear to have offered us anything new during his visit to (Fort) Greely. We are still waiting for that justification. In light of North Korea's recent and continuing provocations I think the decision to cancel missile field two was misguided."