Two top Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are pressing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to update the Pentagon’s assessment of Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program.
Committee Chairman Howard McKeon of California and Representative Michael Turner of Ohio, head of the strategic forces subcommittee, asked Panetta in a letter today for an unclassified update before the committee completes work on an $8.2 billion Pentagon request to shift, or reprogram, fiscal 2012 funds.
“We write out of concern with the administration’s plans for missile defense, specifically, the continued sharp decline in the attention and resources invested in U.S. national missile defenses,” the lawmakers said.
Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said in an e-mailed statement that “the department will review the letter and reply to Chairman McKeon and Congressman Turner.”
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Panetta’s predecessor, said in September 2009 that the intelligence community “now assesses the threat of potential Iranian ICBM capabilities has been slower to develop than was estimated in 2006.”
McKeon and Turner referred, as evidence of a potential shift in that assessment, to statements in the Pentagon’s latest unclassified report on Iranian military power sent to Capitol Hill this month.
First among four sets of questions the lawmakers want answered in unclassified form: “Have key judgments about Iran’s efforts to develop ICBMs shifted since 2009? Does Iran now intend to develop an ICBM, if so, what is the earliest it could deploy such a capability?”
The Pentagon’s latest Iran report said that “with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an ICBM by fiscal 2015,” language almost identical to a statement in an April 2010 report.
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