Inhofe Speaks About Missile Defense

"We don’t have the luxury of time"

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), spoke on the Senate floor yesterday about the North Korea’s missile launch earlier this week and the importance of funding United States missile defense.  

Click here to view remarks.

Key Excerpts: 

“Adversaries, like North Korea, are developing ballistic missiles with increasing range and accuracy. It is important for us here in the Senate to communicate to the American people the credible, grave, and immediate threat that we face. Today, the world is more dangerous than it has ever been before. …’

“…I have actually been here on the Floor on this issue in 2001, 2009, 2012, and this will be the third time this year. Over the last 30 years, we have witnessed our missile defense programs go through dramatic investment changes from administration to administration depending on who is president. …

“… Now, yesterday—that was the big day—yesterday it finally happened. Yesterday, North Korea proved that it could reliably range the entire continental United States with a test of its latest developed and newest version of their ICBM. …

“… It is important to remember that all the power is being wielded by the erratic despot, Kim Jong Un. We don’t have the luxury of time. He has stated that his goal is to attain a nuclear capable ICBM that can annihilate the United States. Each and every day he gets closer to his goal and yesterday he proved that it could be done. …”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, for twenty years I have viewed the development and deployment of a layered ballistic missile defense shield as vital to our national security. The experience we had yesterday—we witnessed yesterday—is something we have been talking about for a long time that was going to happen. Sometimes our DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, said it was going to happen five years from now, then four years from now. But, the question is: ‘when will North Korea have the capability of a weapon and delivery system to reach Washington D.C. or any of the United States?’

Adversaries, like North Korea, are developing ballistic missiles with increasing range and accuracy. It is important for us here in the Senate to communicate to the American people the credible, grave, and immediate threat that we face.

Today, the world is more dangerous than it has ever been before. I have said so many times in the past that I look wistfully back at the days of the Cold War when things were predictable. We had two superpowers. We knew what they had, they knew what we had. It is not that way anymore. Every time we get someone coming into our defense committee to testify, they talk about the fact that North Korea is not predictable.

I have actually been here on the Floor on this issue in 2001, 2009, 2012, and this will be the third time this year. Over the last 30 years, we have witnessed our missile defense programs go through dramatic investment changes from administration to administration depending on who is president.

President Reagan—we remember how everyone ridiculed him—Star Wars, hitting a bullet with a bullet. They thought it was pretty funny at that time. Right now, everything he said was going to happen, is happening, and happened yesterday.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration cut $2.5 billion from the Bush missile defense budget request for fiscal year 1994. They terminated the Reagan-Bush Strategic Defense Initiative program, downgraded national missile defense to a research and development program only and cut five year missile defense funding by 54 percent from $39 billion to $18 billion.

In 1996, they cut funding and slowed development of the THAAD program—we are so dependent upon right now—to defend against an incoming missile in many parts of the world. They cut the Defense Authorization bill requiring accelerated development. In 1999, they delayed—by at least two years—the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites designed to detect and track missile launches necessary to coordinate with any effective national missile defense system.

Then, along came Bush. By the end of 2008, the Bush Administration had succeeded in fielding a missile defense system capable of defending all 50 States. Here’s the problem we had. We had—during that period of time—44 ground-based defense systems in the United States. The Obama Administration cut that back down, but the Bush Administration wanted a system that would take care of all 50 states. Here’s the problem though: all of the ground-based systems were on the West Coast, in Alaska and California.

At that time, that is where they thought the threat was going to be. But, during the last years of the Bush Administration—the second Bush Administration—we realized that we needed to do something about the rest of the country, something about the East Coast and something about Western Europe. So, we made a deal with the Czech Republic and Poland to have a ground-based system in the Czech Republic and Poland along with the radar necessary to operate it.

I remember—I was there—I had a conversation with Václav Klaus in the Czech Republic. He said to me “If we go along with building this system, we are going to incur the wrath of Russia and it’s going to be very difficult for us. Can you assure us, if we agree to do this, that you won’t pull the rug out from under us?” And I said “Certainly. We wouldn’t do that. This is something we are committed to do.”

The problem was, the first thing that happened when the Obama Administration came in—he pulled the rug out from under them. Here we find ourselves vulnerable to, maybe, having one shot at a defense system in the eastern part of the United States and in Western Europe. Then, in April, came the first of the Obama defense cuts which began disarming America and dismantling our layered missile-defense system. Additionally, due to President Obama’s overall reduced budget requests for defense, there were not enough Aegis ships or missiles to meet the demand that was there.

Since Kim Jong-Un took power in 2009, he’s already conducted more than 80 ballistic missile tests. That’s far more than his father and grandfather conducted.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests of increasingly powerful weapons. The latest test was in September of this year.  That bomb had an explosive yield estimated to be about 100 kilotons, which is almost seven times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and as much as 11 times more powerful than what North Korea tested in January of last year.

At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Asia-Pacific Strategy in April of this year, a panel of expert witnesses agreed with me that North Korea currently represents the most imminent threat to our national security. On July 4 of this year, North Korea made a major breakthrough with their first successful ICBM launching. If launched on a standard trajectory, the missile could likely have travelled up to 5,000 miles. Now, that’s enough to reach Alaska. On July 28 of this year, North Korea tested another ICBM. This missile demonstrated the potential ability to reach mainland U.S. targets with a nuclear armed ICBM.

Now, yesterday—that was the big day—yesterday it finally happened. Yesterday, North Korea proved that it could reliably range the entire continental United States with a test of its latest developed and newest version of their ICBM. 

It is important to remember that all the power is being wielded by the erratic despot, Kim Jong Un. We don’t have the luxury of time. He has stated that his goal is to attain a nuclear capable ICBM that can annihilate the United States. Each and every day he gets closer to his goal and yesterday he proved that it could be done.

Secretary Mattis confirmed the technical advances displayed in yesterday’s test. The missile had a 53-minute time of flight, and Mattis confirmed that it went “higher than any previous shot they’ve taken.”

David Wright, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote that yesterday’s test indicates that North Korea can now hold the United States well within missile range. Wright wrote, “Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and, in fact, any part of the continental United States.”

So, when you talk about the real threats that are out there, we now know—even though people didn’t believe it 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago—it finally happened yesterday. They have the range that would reach the continental United States and they have proven they have a missile that can do that.

The only argument they use is they say well, this may not have had a payload—maybe they couldn’t have done that with a payload, actually had that kind of a range. That doesn’t me much comfort. I really think that, now, we are to the point where we have to recognize we are in the most threatened position we have been in as a nation and now it’s a lot easier to believe that because we witnessed that yesterday.