Fox's Hemmer didn't challenge criticism of Obama missile defense cuts

››› ››› TOM ALLISON & LILY YAN

Fox News' Bill Hemmer did not challenge Rep. Trent Franks' criticism of the Obama administration for proposing to reduce the missile defense budget, failing to note that Defense Department officials have testified that the cuts allow them to more effectively manage the fleet of interceptors that counter rogue state threats.

During a June 22 segment on Fox News' America's Newsroom about the North Korean ship suspected of carrying weapons and nuclear technology, co-host Bill Hemmer did not challenge Rep. Trent Franks' (R-AZ) criticism of the Obama administration for having "put into the budget a 35-percent decrease in that [ground-based midcourse defense] budget amidst an obvious increase in the missile threat against the United States and the world." Franks also called the decision "a priority mismatch." Hemmer did not note that Defense Department officials have testified that the cuts in missile defense allow them to more effectively manage the fleet of interceptors that counter rogue state threats.

According to a Nexis transcript of a June 16 Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on missile defense, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, who was named director of the Missile Defense Agency during the Bush administration, explained the reasoning for decreasing the planned number of operational silos from 44 to 30 (a 35 percent decrease): "We have limited the number of operational silos to 30 to more efficiently and effectively manage the long-term health of a fleet of GBIs [ground-based interceptors] with sufficient firepower to counter the emerging rogue-nation ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] threats." During the hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told Sen. John McCain that "the threat we face from Iran and North Korea at this point is in the range of a handful of missiles," and that "we would be better off making -- ensuring those 30 silos had operationally ready missiles rather than expanding the number of silos."

And when Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) asked: "[I]f there is a rogue launch, what are the percentages that we're going to be able to hit it and bring it down?" O'Reilly responded, "Ninety-percent plus."

Additionally, during a June 18 press conference, when Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked whether "the U.S. would use its missile defense system" in the event North Korea launched a ballistic missile toward Hawaii, he stated, in part: "Based on my visit to Fort Greely, the ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action. So without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say, we are -- I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary to protect American territory."

From the June 22 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

HEMMER: Now, North Korea: A U.S. Navy destroyer now tailing this North Korean ship in Southeast Asia, the vessel, The Kang Nam, seen here, suspected of carrying illegal weapons connected to its nuclear program. The U.S. basically facing two options here: board the ship and inspect it, or do nothing and let it dock later in Myanmar.

Trent Franks is the chairman of the bipartisan congressional Missile Defense Caucus. He's a Republican out of Arizona. Sir, and good morning to you out there in Phoenix. A couple of scenarios --

FRANKS: Good morning to you.

HEMMER: -- here. What happens if we board?

FRANKS: Well, you know, it -- there are risks associated with that, Bill, but I think the risks of not boarding are even greater. I think Senator McCain is correct that if we have hard evidence that there are potentially nuclear missiles -- or materials aboard that ship, then we should board it, because these are critical days. You know, nuclear proliferation's like a virus. If it gets too far out there, it can just proliferate all over the world, and it's critically important that we do what's right now, because if we don't, we could be facing even greater challenges in the future.

HEMMER: All right. Part of this is based on this recent U.N. resolution that didn't say you had to board it, but they just suggested it, but it wasn't an enforcement that was delivered out of the United Nations here in New York. But why are we so suspicious of this particular ship, sir?

FRANKS: Well, you know, I think, perhaps we might be getting into some sensitive areas there, but the reality is that the UN has made it clear that carrying fissile materials or nuclear materials that could potentially be weaponized aboard a ship like this breaks the U.N. resolutions. And North Korea has made it clear to the world that they're going to defy the whole planet and become a fully armed -- nuclear-armed nation. And that should give pause to all of us.

In fact, you know, Bill, I would go one step further. I believe that if North Korea launches an ICBM that is on an azimuth of any kind that is potentially threatening to the homeland of the United States, that we should use our GMD system to knock it down --

HEMMER: GMV?

FRANKS: -- because that then -- GMD: our ground-based midcourse defense system.

HEMMER: Which has been deployed --

FRANKS: It is the only system --

HEMMER: -- to the state of Hawaii already. I mean, there's a possibility we could knock it down if they go ahead with the launch.

FRANKS: Well, actually, you're talking about -- you're talking about THAAD [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense]. THAAD has been there a long time. The administration, I don't understand quite the rhetoric when they talk about beefing up THAAD and Aegis. Neither one of those systems have been tested and proven against ICBMs, whereas our GMD system, that is on shore in the United States, has been tested against those ICBMs and it is the only system capable of defending our homeland against ICBMs. It's been proven and tested to do that.

And yet, this administration has put into the budget a 35-percent decrease in that budget amidst an obvious increase in the missile threat against the United States and the world. And so, it's just something that is a priority mismatch that I can't possibly fathom.

HEMMER: Make it clear for me. What would you like the U.S. government to do, sir?

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