Calling it “very challenging” in remarks to a Senate panel, the general who commands America’s nuclear arsenal issued a warning about North Korean missile advances.
Frustration about the lengthy delays and budget instability that he said are hindering the ability to modernize the nation’s nuclear deterrence capabilities, was expressed at the same time by Gen. John Hyten, U.S. Air Force Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.
Hinting that it’s only time before they can do it with a nuclear warhead, Hyten said North Korea now has the capability to deploy an intercontinental ballistic missile, while speaking to the full Senate Armed Services Committee. New capability that moved them into a new league with solid-fueled missile technology was also demonstrated by the rogue Asian nation in February, he said.
“Ballistic missile proliferation is increasing as more countries acquire greater numbers of ballistic missiles while simultaneously advancing technical sophistication to defeat U.S. defense systems,” Hyten testified.
To deter threats and aggression, the U.S. must continue to advance its missile capabilities and forces, the Air Force general said. But there could be risks, if the U.S. military doesn’t get stable budgets to modernize its capabilities, he said.
Delivering new ships on a “just in time” basis is the Navy’s Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine program and this is an example. However, a problem for military leaders due to the existing fleet of aging Ohio-class submarines could be posed if the program slips due to budget issues and it will be falling below required numbers.
“There is a certain time in the future where the Ohio-class submarine… will not go under the water anymore,” the general said. “Just the pressure on the vessel itself will not allow it to go down. That [program] has to stay on time.”
Hyten said that the government’s funding using a continuing resolution, or CR, “makes it very hard to start new programs”. Moreover, the CR means “you can’t ramp up the funding you need” as weapons programs move from development phase into production, he said.
the government breaks defense contracts is the effect of the CR, the general also said. “It’s a very significant issue in terms of cost to the taxpayers as well as risk to our national security.”
Despite earlier attempts to streamline it, Pentagon’s current weapons acquisition process is dysfunctional, Hyten also vented.
“Our acquisition system has not been very effective in the last 10 years in delivering things on time,” he said. “I think what you have to do is eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy in the middle.”
Since early warning missile sensor technology used by the U.S. military in space is seen as increasingly vulnerable due to advances by China and others, the hearing also touched on how there’s an added risk. Other experts are also troubled by the growing threat of offensive space weapons.
“We don’t have a significant, or really any boost phase, intercept capability,” the general said. “It is a very challenging technology because you basically have to be properly positioned with the right kind of weapons capability in order to respond to an immediate launch.”
(Adapted from CNBC)