By March, the annual process of federal government officials marching up to Congress to justify their budget requests is in full swing. Missile defense officials took their turn in early March but did so in a way that raised questions about the data behind one of their key justifications.
Testifying March 9 before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lieutenant General Henry Obering told lawmakers that "last year there were nearly 80 foreign ballistic missile launches." But Obering did not give specifics on which countries conducted those launches.
In follow-up interviews, an MDA spokesperson declined to elaborate, saying that such figures would have to be released by the intelligence community, while the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency have not responded to Arms Control Today inquiries. An informal analysis appears to indicate that these launches only involved a handful by countries against which missile defenses are currently configured; none of these countries conducted a long-range ballistic missile launch.
According to Bush administration and Pentagon officials, current strategic missile interceptors are intended to stop a ballistic missile attack from North Korea or the Middle East, particularly Iran. …