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Hearing of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: What are the Prospects? Costs? Oversight of Missile Defense (Part Two)

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: What are the Prospects? Costs? Oversight of Missile Defense (Part Two)

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REP. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Let me first say, sir, I just want to express sincere gratitude that you would allow me to speak here. This is not something you have to do to the entire committee and the staff.

This is a courtesy and I fully realize that and truly appreciate it.

As it happens, I'm a member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, and this issue has been one of great issue to us and one that we've tried to work in bipartisan fashion on the committee. In fact, Ms. Tauscher is holding oversight hearings tomorrow.

So let me just begin by saying I wish that we did not have intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles in this world. I wish they did not exist. But since man first took up arms against himself or his fellow human beings, there has always been offensive weapons. And the effort has been to build a defensive response to those. And unfortunately, that matrix continues forward.

And when it comes to intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads on them, we -- I believe that it is vital that we have the best defense that we can devise, even if it's not perfect, given the fact that if one lands in one of our major cities, 100,000 people will die in a blinding moment, and 4(00,00) or 500,00 more will die within a week or two or three. And so it occurs to me that even though many things that the panelists have said as far as the system being imperfect are correct, it does remain that we need the best defense that we can. The threat does exist. And I would certainly be open to any better answers.

But as of December 31st, 2007, we have begun to do some things that are pretty significant. We have fielded 21 ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska, and three more at Tevanenberg (ph). And we are now able to provide a limited defense against a threat from North Korea.

We've also upgraded 10 of our Aegis ships for ballistic missile defense capability, and we've armed them with 21 SM-3 interceptors to devise a defense against a short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles. Seven more destroyers have also been put in place for long- range surveillance and tracking ability.

It's important to note that 26 of the last 27 flight tests for missile defense have been successful -- 26 of the last 27. There were those some years ago, when it seemed that the only possible hope that we would have would be mutually assured destruction, that said, "We will never hit a bullet with a bullet in the sky." That is not true any longer. We can hit a dot on a bullet with a bullet in the sky these days, and it's a significant thing.

Two things have changed since this debate first began. First, we now know that missile defense is possible. It's not perfect, but it's certainly possible. We also have seen jihadist terrorism come up on the scene who cannot be deterred by the threat of response, and who some of their leaders call Armageddon a good thing. These are situations that we need to consider.

Related to countermeasures, I can only assure you that my committee hears of these issues all the time. And our people are at work. And I believe progress will be made. And I believe it's always bad to -- a bad bet to bet against the innovation of the American people.

Mr. Coyle mentioned that to hit these missiles is like hitting a hole-in-one when the hole is moving at 17,000 miles an hour, and he is precisely correct. But that is also precisely what we did with a satellite coming in at 17,000 miles an hour, in a situation where we could never have orchestrated such a scenario. We didn't just hit the satellite. We had to hit the center force of the satellite with a hydrazine tank. And we did that. And we did that from a ship floating in the ocean, in the Pacific, you know. And the target was 250 kilometers away into space.

This is an amazing, amazing accomplishment. Again, it is not perfect, but we have made some tremendous progress.

I'm reminded that two airplanes hitting two buildings in New York cost this economy nearly $2 trillion. And I don't even know how to begin to estimate what one ballistic missile from Iran hitting New York with a 100-kiloton warhead on it would do to our economy and to our concept of freedom. I can only suggest to you that it would be very profound.

And I know there may be a day when people will look at us and say: "You built a system that we didn't need. It was expensive. It cost hundreds of billions of dollars." And we may have to apologize to the American people for doing that.

And Mr. Chairman, I would be glad to come back to this committee and stand in any line and gratefully and humbly apologize to the American people for building such a system that we did not need.

But in the world that we live in, I fear that Iran and other countries, terrorist groups, may be able to come up with something that, again, would change our concept of freedom forever. And I don't want to be one to have to apologize to people that have survived such a tragedy and say to them, "We failed to build a system when we could have."

And again, I can't express enough gratitude to all of you for allowing me to speak. You're erudite people on the committee here and on the panel. I appreciate their perspectives.

I hope that we can work together to turn mutually assured destruction into mutually assured survival. I hope we can work together to save and protect our citizens against potential nuclear missiles rather than to avenge them if such a tragedy occurs. And I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to talk.

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