Murkowski: Defense Secretary Gates Affirms Strategic Importance of Fort Greely
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the Obama administration is committed to maintaining the Nation’s missile defense assets at Fort Greely and will revisit the question of whether to expand the number of Ground Base Interceptors there in 2012 , according to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Gates also committed to deploy the Sea Based X Band Radar (SBX) radar in Alaska as soon as testing is completed.
Gates met with Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and several other Senators who are concerned with the Obama administration’s proposed $1.6 billion cut to missile defense in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget document. Obama’s budget would cut the ground-based missile program by $524 million, freezing the number of missile interceptors at Fort Greely at 26. It also means the termination of construction activities on Missile Field #2 on Fort Greely which was to house additional interceptor missiles. However, construction of a new power plant and security enhancements at Fort Greely would continue under the Obama budget.
Gates told the lawmakers that the military will continue to procure and test ground-based interceptor missiles through 2012, at which point a decision will be made whether to maintain the program and possibly increase the number of interceptors at Fort Greely or shut down the production line, permanently capping the number of interceptor missiles at Fort Greely.
During the course of the meeting Gates reiterated that he was a strong missile defense proponent, and has confidence that the ground-based midcourse defense system works. He committed to continued testing and enhancement of the Fort Greely based system. As a first step, some of the newer generation interceptor missiles which were planned to be installed in Missile Field #2 will be redirected to existing silos at Fort Greely.
“Contrary to the language in the Obama administration budget proposal, I came away from our meeting encouraged that Secretary Gates supports the protection of the U.S. homeland through continued enhancements to the ground-based midcourse defense system,” Murkowski said. “With the threat of missile attack from North Korea and Iran, it’s only smart that we continue to improve our interceptor capability.”
Gates also told the senators that he hopes travel to Fort Greely in the near future to inspect the missile defense installation.
Gates reiterated that the floating missile defense radar rig, known as the Sea-Based X-band radar (SBX) currently undergoing testing and modifications in Hawaii, continues to show great capability and, as planned, will be based at Adak, in the Aleutian Islands.
As for the proposed missile defense cuts, Gates said the decision was made based on an assessment of risk rather than fiscal constraints.