The Air Force general in charge of U.S. missile defense expressed confidence Wednesday in the ground-based interceptor missile defense system, despite its three successive test failures.
"I am still confident that the system will perform in its limited defense role. But I'm concerned with the recent test failure," Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said at a defense writers breakfast in Washington.
The system, which is designed to shoot down missiles heading toward the U.S., failed its most recent test earlier this month. Its last successful test was in 2008.
The Defense Department announced in March plans to add 14 interceptors to the 30 in its missile defense system on the West Coast by fiscal 2017, and is studying placing a system on the East Coast. The Obama administration decided to add the missiles in response to North Korea's provocations.
In debate this week over the 2014 defense spending bill, Democratic lawmakers failed to remove nearly $110 million to install the new interceptor missiles and redirect the money toward deficit reduction.
"The [interceptor missile] program is simply a failure so far," Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat, said Tuesday.
Gen. Kehler said that additional testing of the system is a "priority call within the resources that are available for missile defense."
"It is critically important to make sure we understand what went wrong here, make that sure that we understand what the fixes are, and that we go fly, and make sure the fixes are in place," he said, adding that he would like to see the system tested once a year.
"I still have confidence in the system, but I think we have work to do with the test program to make sure we sustain that level of confidence," he said.
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