| WASHINGTON, July 12
WASHINGTON, July 12 Four U.S. Republican
lawmakers on Friday urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to
conduct another test of the missile defense system this year
after last week's test failure, and to make development of a
next-generation interceptor a top priority.
The lawmakers said the cause of the failed July 5 missile
defense test was not yet clear, but they argued that President
Barack Obama's cuts in spending on missile defense had reduced
funding for needed tests and maintenance of the system.
Representatives Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed
Services Committee and Mike Rogers, who heads the committee's
strategic forces subcommittee, joined with Senator James Inhofe,
the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and
Senator Jeff Sessions, in signing the letter dated Friday.
The test failure comes at a time of growing concerns about
missile development by North Korea, Iran and China. It follows
years of budget reductions in missile defense by the Democratic
administration that were sharply opposed by Republicans.
In Friday's letter, the Republican lawmakers faulted the
Obama administration for rejecting ways to make the ground-based
missile defense system more effective, cancelling a system that
would have allowed multiple interceptors to be packed onto one
rocket, and opposing efforts to fund an East Coast missile site.
A test last Friday of the only U.S. defense against
long-range ballistic missiles failed, the third consecutive
failure involving the interceptor system managed by Boeing Co
. The military has tested the so-called
ground-based midcourse defense system 16 times. It has succeeded
eight times, with the last intercept in December 2008.
The Pentagon has said the test would not affect its decision
to bolster the U.S. missile defense system by adding 14 new
anti-missile interceptors at a cost of nearly $1 billion.
Hagel announced the move in March following threats by North
Given threats posed by North Korea and Iran, the Republican
lawmakers said it was critical to conduct another intercept test
as soon as practicable, and to begin work on a new so-called
"We must continue to advance the national missile defense
capability, even as we ensure the existing capability meets the
highest levels of reliability," they told Hagel in the letter.
They also asked the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency
to provide Congress with a plan for resolving the cause of the
failure of the recent test, conducting a new intercept test and
fielding a next-generation kill vehicle.
In Friday's test, a long-range ballistic missile target was
launched from the U.S. Army's Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein
Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. The interceptor missile
was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.