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Ms. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I wish to talk this morning about an amendment I had intended to offer but I am not going to be offering today because there is an important portion in the House Armed Services Committee that covers my concerns. That was the amendment I had drafted that is cosponsored by Senators LIEBERMAN and COLLINS. I appreciate their support.
My amendment would establish an east coast ballistic missile defense site to make sure the east coast of our country is protected from missile threats. Let me describe why I thought it was very important. My amendment would have established both a study on three potential locations for an east coast missile defense site, an environmental impact study, and a plan for deployment of that site.
Where we are right now, unfortunately, is we have Iran, and no one disagrees that Iran has an active ballistic development program. They can already reach Eastern Europe. Many analysts believe Iran will be able to develop the capacity to strike the mainland United States with an ICBM by 2015. Our existing missile defense sites right now that protect this country have the capacity--if, for example, North Korea were to launch an ICBM toward the west coast, we would have an opportunity for two shots at that missile to protect our country.
In other words, if the President of the United States got an awful call that a missile was coming from North Korea toward the western coast of our country, he would have an opportunity to have one shot, a look, and then a shot to take that missile down to protect our country; two shots to take the missile down.
But as it stands right now, when it comes to the east coast of our country, including the Capital, Washington, DC, the center of our government where we stand right now, my home State of New Hampshire, New York, all those population centers, if Iran were to develop the capacity to have an ICBM, where we are today is we would only get one shot at that missile if it were to be shot at the eastern coast of the United States instead of a shoot, look, shoot that we have if North Korea were to shoot a missile toward the western part of our country.
I think this is deeply troubling. We should be developing that capacity to make sure our country is fully protected.
I would like to address others who have looked at this. This year the National Research Council recommended an additional ballistic missile site in the United States in the Northeast to more effectively protect the Eastern United States and Canada, particularly against Iranian ICBM threats should they emerge. That is, of course, because some analysts believe they could develop that capacity as soon as 2015.
The markup coming out of the House Armed Services Committee already contains language and authorization for the actual establishment of an east coast missile site. That is one of the reasons I will not be offering my amendment today to conduct this study on environmental impact and also planned deployment because the House version already contains a requirement that an east coast missile defense site be developed.
Some would say--in fact, one thing I would like to address is that we may hear from the administration that they are working on a hedging--and a different hedging strategy--to make sure the east coast is protected. And that hedging strategy would be plans to deploy the SM-3 Block IIB missile in Poland. But where we are today with the SM-3 Block IIB shows why it is important for us to use technology that already exists to protect the east coast; that is, because the SM-3 Block IIB is only a plan on a piece of paper. It doesn't exist yet, and there have been concerns relayed about its development and, in fact, the development of the SM-3 Block IIB has already been delayed to 2021, which does not meet where we are with the potential that Iran could develop ICBM capacity by 2015. It just would not work.
But what we do know is that we already have technology that exists, and if we were to deploy a missile defense site now on the east coast, that we would get the opportunity to have a look, shoot, look on the east coast were Iran to launch a missile toward the east coast of our country.
We only need to look at what happened recently in the conflict with Hamas, the missiles that were being shot into Israel and the Iron Dome system to understand the importance of missile defense. Now, that is a system that focuses on short-range missiles, but we all saw the number of civilians that could be protected by the capacity of having a robust missile defense system, and I can't imagine why we wouldn't want to be in the position to make sure the east coast of our country would be as protected as the west coast when it comes to an emerging threat from Iran.
There is no question that the more we hear about the behavior of Iran, the more troubled we should be as a country. Not only do they have a robust missile development program, but we all know they are also making efforts to acquire the capability of having a nuclear weapon.
Now is the time for us to act, not to find ourselves in 2015 with no plans as to how to deploy an east coast missile defense site to make sure the east coast of our country has the same protection as the west coast. Now is the time to act because, in addition, in 2012 in the defense authorization, we asked the administration to submit a plan to us as to how they would hedge, a hedging strategy to make sure the east coast was as protected as the west coast.
They have yet to submit that plan, and so now is the time for us to make sure we go forward with technology that already exists to ensure that the east coast of our country is protected.
I cannot imagine the President of the United States being in a position as we go forward in our country where, if a missile were coming from Iran toward our Capital, he would be told we only have one shot to take that missile down versus if a missile were coming to the west coast of our country in L.A. from North Korea, that we would have two shots to take that missile down.
We want to make sure our country is protected. The threat from Iran is a very real threat. That is why I was going to offer this amendment, to make sure we had a study, an environmental impact analysis and a plan that the Department of Defense could use to deploy an east coast missile defense site.
But my colleagues in the House, including Representative Turner, have already addressed this issue directly with the requirement contained in the House mark of the Armed Services Committee. I think it is very important what they have done.
I thank the Chair very much for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
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