Key GOP chairman backs boosting programs that could be used against Iran

The threat of war with Iran is real, and Congress must do everything possible to ensure the Pentagon is ready, a top defense lawmaker said Tuesday. 

Irans recent saber-rattling and its refusal to open up its nuclear program to international scrutiny is reason [enough] to be concerned about a potential conflict between Tehran and Washington or its regional allies such as Israel, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday during a breakfast with reporters. 

Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Strategic Forces, added that the United States cannot afford to bet against Iran turning that war rhetoric into action. He also said he supports efforts by committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) to focus defense dollars on programs that could be used in a military action against Iran.

Last Wednesday, McKeon said Congress must begin to allocate resources for contingencies like Iran. The upcoming fiscal 2013 defense spending bill will reflect appropriate resourcing for those programs designed to counter the Iranian threat, he added in his speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Turner dismissed criticisms that fast-tracking weapons programs for a possible Iranian conflict would just inflame an already combustible situation between the two countries. 

Irans ongoing military buildup — including the possible addition of a nuclear weapon to that arsenal — and its recent aggressive actions in the Straits of Hormuz is proof enough that Tehran could be gearing up for a fight, Turner said.

Perhaps we should believe them, he said. 

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U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf have already beefed up their fleet to deter a possible Iranian attack. The Navy has doubled the number of mine-hunting vessels in the region and outfitted its warships with powerful Gatling guns to counter Irans small, fast-moving patrol boats. 

Turner declined to comment on which specific resources — in terms of actual programs and weapons systems — would receive more money, noting that committee members are still hashing out the details of the House proposal. 

But one program that could benefit from this effort is the new Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb. 

The bomb is a 30,000-pound behemoth capable of blasting through hundreds of feet of reinforced concrete to hit a target. It dwarfs the Pentagon’s Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon — known affectionately as the “mother of all bombs” in defense circles — and is the largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. military arsenal.

It is the perfect weapon to hit the heavily fortified underground bunkers where Iran is suspected to be hiding its nuclear weapons work, Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations, said during a March 9 speech in Arlington, Va.