The Air Force general who runs the Pentagon’s missile defense projects said Wednesday that American interests would be “severely hurt” if President-elect Obama decided to halt plans developed by the Bush administration to install missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.
This 2008 handout image courtesy of the US Missile Defense Agency (USMDA) shows a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) being launched off the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The Pentagon’s missile defense chief Trey Obering said Wednesday he looked forward to reporting to Barack Obama that the US anti-missile system is “workable,” and to setting the president-elect’s mind at ease.(AFP/HO USMDA/File/Ho)
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told a group of reporters that he is awaiting word from Obama’s transition team on their interest in receiving briefings.
During the campaign, Obama was not explicit about his intentions with regard to missile defense. The program has tended to draw less support from Democrats over the years, particularly during the Reagan presidency when it was seen as a “Star Wars” effort to erect an impenetrable shield against nuclear missile attack from the Soviet Union. More recently the project has been scaled back, although it has again created an East-West divide by stirring Russian opposition to the proposed European link.
Obama has said it would be prudent to “explore the possibility of deploying missile defense systems in Europe,” in light of what he called active efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.
U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lieutenant-General Henry Obering is seen during the Czech Republic – U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Industry Research and Business Seminar in Czernin Palace in Prague in this January 16, 2008 file photo.REUTERS/David W Cerny/Files
But Obama expressed some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses. He said that if elected his administration would work with NATO allies to develop anti-missile technologies.
Obering, who is leaving his post next week after more than four years in charge, said in the interview that his office has pulled together information for a presentation to the Obama team, if asked.
“What we have discovered is that a lot of the folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated, in terms of the program,” he said. “They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 time frame and we have come a hell of a long way since 2000. Our primary objective is going to be just, frankly, educating them on what we have accomplished, what we have been able to do and why we have confidence in what we are doing.”
Asked whether he meant that Obama or his advisers had an outdated view of missile defense, Obering said he was speaking more generally about people who have not closely followed developments in this highly technical field.
A key question for the new president will be whether to proceed with the Bush administration‘s plans to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic. That system is on track to be ready for use by 2014, Obering said. It is strongly opposed by Russia, which sees it as an unwelcome military threat close to its borders; the Bush administration says it is needed to defend European allies against an emerging missile threat from Iran.
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