Defense hawks fault Obama for failed missile interceptor test

A group of Republican defense hawks say President Obama is partially to blame for last week's failed missile interceptor test.

The four Republicans wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Friday faulting the Obama administration for not conducting enough tests to develop the ground-based midcourse defense system.

Last week's failed test was the third time in a row that the kill vehicle has failed to intercept the target; the last successful intercept was in 2008.

The lawmakers — House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Strategic Forces subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Senate Armed Services ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Strategic Forces subcommittee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — urged the Pentagon to schedule a new interceptor test as soon as possible.

"While it may take some time to reach a final diagnosis of the cause of the July 5th test failure, it is already clear that President Obama’s decision to drastically cut funding for the GMD program since he came to office and to ‘curtail addition GMD development,’ has drained funding available to conduct needed tests of this system," they wrote.

The Armed Services members said that Obama has cut funding to the ground-based interceptor program and left it on "life support," as there have only been three intercept attempts and two flight tests since 2009.

"We believe it is imperative that the Missile Defense Agency conduct, as soon as practicable, a new intercept test of the CE-1 Enhanced Kill Vehicle GBI," the lawmakers wrote. "We believe such a test should occur in 2013 to ensure there is no question about the capability and credibility of the GMD system — our only national missile defense capability."

Republicans have long criticized the Obama administration over missile defense. They have criticized the administration over funding levels, for not pursuing a European missile shield and for initially opting not to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska.

The Pentagon reversed course this year and decided to deploy the new interceptors due to threats from North Korea.

The latest missile defense fight is over a third U.S. missile defense site on the East Coast, which Republicans included funding for in the House's Defense authorization bill. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress say the third site is not necessary.

The Armed Services Republicans knocked Obama for opposing the East Coast site in their letter Thursday.

"Even now, amidst advances by North Korea and Iran to hold the United Sates at risk from long-range ballistic missile attacks, the Administration refuses to support the East Coast missile defense site and instead suggests other options may be able to deliver some improved GMD capability, yet those options aren't even reflected in the MDA budget requests," the lawmakers said.