Joint Chiefs head doesn't 'see a need’ for East Coast missile site

One day after the House Armed Services Committee voted to back a third U.S. missile interceptor site for the East Coast, the Pentagon’s top military general said there was no need for the new site.

“In my military judgment, the program of record for ballistic missile defense for the homeland, as we've submitted it, is adequate and sufficient to the task,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news briefing Thursday. “So I don't see a need beyond what we've submitted in the last budget.”

The House committee included $100 million to start developing an East Coast missile defense site, which Strategic Forces subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said was needed to counter rising threats from Iran and North Korea. The United States currently has missile defense sites in California and Alaska and is planning to increase its missile defense capabilities further in Europe.

The committee provision's instructs the Pentagon to determine the best location for the East Coast site and conduct an environmental impact review, calling for the missile interceptor to be operational by 2016.

Dempsey, however, said Thursday that the Defense Department’s current make-up of ground-based and sea-based missiles was plenty, adding that the current U.S. ballistic missile defense capabilities were evaluated in last year’s strategic review.

Democrats unsuccessfully offered an amendment Wednesday to strip the East Coast site from the bill. In their arguments against building the new site, they cited prior congressional testimony from U.S. Northern Command Commander Gen. Charles Jacoby, who said “today’s threats do not require an East Coast missile field and we do not have plans to do so.”

The East Coast missile site generated some of the most heated congressional testimony in Wednesday’s mark-up, delving into presidential politics after Republicans criticized President Obama's “hot mic” incident with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Democrats accused the GOP of pushing the missile site as a political ploy.