No need for East Coast missile shield, says DOD

"It's not programmed for in the budget we just submitted back in February. We [just] don't believe we need it right now," DOD spokesman Capt. John Kirby said during a Thursday briefing at the Pentagon.

Kirby's comments come a day after a top Air Force general said the department is evaluating the East Coast option as part of an overarching effort to redraft missile defense priorities for the continental United States. 

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The missile shield is one of many issues being hashed out as part of the so-called "hedge strategy" being worked on inside the Pentagon, Strategic Command chief Gen. Bob Kehler said during a Wednesday speech in Washington. 

The strategy, mandated by Congress, will help weigh the department's options on whether to expand the current, limited anti-missile capabilities already in place across the United States, according to Kehler.  

DOD already has limited missile defense capability already in place across the country, including the anti-missile systems already established on the West Coast. 

Those systems are tailored to address the specific North Korean missile threat, particularly against potential targets in Hawaii, Alaska and the western coastline of the country. 

But Kehler admitted it was too early to tell whether deploying batteries of missile interceptors along the Eastern seaboard would be critical to preventing a long-range missile attack from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. 

However, Kirby was clear that neither he nor the department shared the general's open-ended outlook on the possible need for an East Coast missile shield. 

"Certainly it's something that's in consideration, but ... we don't believe we need that kind of a capability right now," Kirby said in response Kehler's comments on the potential missile defense program. 

"There [is] a broad swathe of things that they were looking at. That was just one of them," Kirby added. 

What is equally clear is that the issue has generated a lot of friction among congressional lawmakers, largely along political lines. 

House Republicans forced the measure into the chamber's version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill, calling for the creation of the missile shield by the end of 2015. 

While House Democrats lampooned the idea as an "East Coast, Star Wars-fantasy base," the measure was approved by the full House on May 18. 

When asked if DOD is seriously evaluating the need for an East Coast shield in the pending strategy or merely indulging lawmaker's demands, Kirby replied: "We always look very seriously at the broad scope of our missile defense capabilities and how to make them more robust and to improve them."