The military official in charge of the command that defends the United States from missile threats says she's “100 percent confident” in her ability to protect the country from a North Korean ballistic missile attack, while also calling for more improvements to U.S. missile defense.
“I want to assure this committee today that I am confident that I can defend the United States,” Gen. Lori Robinson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“While I’m confident that we can defeat this threat today, it is critical that we continue to improve the ballistic missile defense enterprise, with emphasis on the development of improved sensor networks combined with interceptor capability and capacity in reliability.”
Robinson noted that budget predictability is key to being able to continue to protect the nation.
“To me predictability is everything. ... Today I can defend the United States of America when it comes to ballistic missile defense ... but we have to allow the services to be able to plan, because they’re the ones that provide us that readiness.”
The Trump administration is requesting $12.9 billion for missile defense in fiscal 2019, according to budget documents released Monday.
The amount “increases the capability and capacity of the United States to detect, defeat, and defend against any North Korean use of ballistic missiles against the United States, its deployed forces, allies, and partners,” the White House budget proposal says.
Robinson said the command will use the dollars to add stronger, missile-detecting radars in Alaska. She also called for radars in Hawaii — a $1 billion radar for the island is in the works and expected to be operational by 2023 — as well as a study on further missile defense needs.
She added that until that time, she’s “very comfortable where we are.”
Robinson’s comments echo those of Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, who a day earlier said the United States is able to defend itself now but must bolster its missile defenses, particularly on Hawaii.
“I do believe that we have that capability today in 2018,” Harris told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
“But given where we think the North Korean capability might be in terms of their missiles in three or four years or in the early 2020s, I think we must continue to improve our missile defenses.”
North Korea in September tested its most powerful nuclear weapon to date, likely a hydrogen bomb. The nation also tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November that could reach the entire United States.