Funding cut comes as Chinese, Iranian, Russian cruise missile threat grows
Congress is poised to significantly cut funding for a key U.S. missile defense system that is slated to be deployed against threats in the Washington, D.C., area, prompting outrage from former military leaders and defense industry insiders.
Congress is seeking to slash $25 million from JLENS, or the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor, an advanced missile detection radar system capable of finding and intercepting missiles, drones, and planes far before they reach the homeland.
Major cuts to the system are coming down the pike just as JLENS is to be deployed in the nation’s capital and integrated into the region’s air defense system.
Former military leaders and defense experts warn that the funding cut will jeopardize the JLENS program at a key juncture and potentially prevent the military from employing the advanced defense system in global hot spots.
The cuts come as rogue nations such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran significantly boost investments in their own cruise and ballistic missile programs, a threat that JLENS is specifically meant to detect and combat.
Taxpayers have invested more than $2.7 billion on JLENS to bring the system to battle-ready levels. The defense firm Raytheon announced earlier this week that it is ready to deploy JLENS anywhere it is needed for “enhanced protection against cruise missiles, hostile airplanes, sea-borne threats, or unmanned aircraft.”
However, the $25 million cut—a very small amount of money in terms of the total U.S. defense budget—threatens to derail the program’s progress and create needless gaps in U.S. national security, former officials say.
Billions of dollars have been invested in the JLENS system, it has been integrated with other systems, and it has been a proven extender of detection and tracking ranges, Chet Nagle, a former Navy officer and Defense Department official, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Nagle said that it makes no sense for Congress to pursue these funding cuts just before the system is deployed for a three-year test run in the D.C. area, a prime target for attack from rogue nations.
U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear told Congress in recent testimony that JLENS is just the system needed to counter “sophisticated integrated air missile defense scenarios that we face in the Asia-Pacific.”
Retired Maj. Gen. Howard “Dallas” Thompson, who recently wrote in defense of JLENS, said that cut “could make the U.S. homeland vulnerable to attack.”
“As a former Chief of Staff at NORAD and NORTHCOM I was steeped in highly classified intelligence data on the cruise missile threat to our homeland,” Thompson wrote in a recent op-ed. “When first briefed on JLENS I immediately saw the potential it offered to defend against this rapidly expanding threat.”
Full article: Congress to Cut Key U.S. Missile Defense System (Washington Free Beacon)