By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON --- Amid speculation that North Korea could be preparing for another missile test, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Congress today he’s confident the United States has the missile defenses in place to defend itself, if necessary.
“I have confidence that if North Korea launched a long-range missile in the direction of the United States, that we would have a high probability of being able to fend ourselves against it,” he told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.
Gates told the panel about his visit last week to Fort Greely, Alaska, one of two U.S. sites where ground-based interceptors are based.
“The judgment and the advice that I got was that the 30 silos that we have now, or are under construction, are fully adequate to protect us against a North Korean threat for a number of years,” he said. It would be easy to resume the program and expand the number of silos in the event that the threat evolves to the point that those defenses seem insufficient, he added.
“If the circumstances should change in a way that leads people to believe that we need more interceptors than the 30, then there’s plenty of room at Fort Greely to expand,” the secretary said.
Gates called the Fort Greely system “immensely capable,” but emphasized that it remains a developmental system. The proposed fiscal 2010 budget provides robust funding to further develop and test the interceptors at Fort Greely and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., he noted.
“As new interceptors with new capabilities that are more sophisticated are developed, we will put those into the silos and take the old interceptors out,” he said. “This is not a static system,” he said, “but something that is undergoing continuing improvement.”