Opening Statement (As Prepared)

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Thank you, Chairman Lamborn. Before I begin, I would like to thank all the witnesses for their testimony today, and welcome both Lieutenant General James and Lieutenant General Collins as this is their first opportunity to testify in front of the subcommittee in their new roles.

LTG James, Space Command’s role is increasing in both importance and consequence, and given that Space Command was recently given responsibility for Department-level missile defense coordination, it is critical that you—and we—understand the complex strategic role missile defense plays in our national security. You are the first Army space operator to reach the rank of Lieutenant General, so you must be doing a lot of things well; FA40s have been an exemplar in the Department, and this milestone is well overdue.

Lt Gen Collins, your unique background across the spectrum of Strategic programs—including space, nuclear weapons, and missile defense—makes you well prepared to be Director of the Missile Defense Agency. I am encouraged by our initial discussions that it is imperative that we understand the larger policy implications of what MDA is developing, before we blindly build new systems that could inadvertently further the proliferation of missile technology, or in the absolute worst case, result in miscalculation and escalation to nuclear war.

As I shift to the topic of today’s hearing, I want to remind the subcommittee that missile defense has a mixed legacy and continues to pose difficult questions about what its purpose is and should be, under what conditions it actually makes us safer, and how much and what kind of it we need. As I laid out last year, there are five basic scenarios or levels at which we consider use or don’t use missile defense. Behind me is a graphic depicting these levels, which I will use to frame my opening remarks.

At the highest level of missile defense, it has been a long-standing policy across nearly every administration that we are not, and will not, pursue missile defense to defeat a near-peer nuclear attack. Despite attempts to change U.S. policy during last year’s NDAA cycle to specifically do so, going down this road would be incredibly destabilizing, technically challenging, and prohibitively expensive. Until we can safely rid the world of all nuclear weapons, which I believe is ultimately necessary for the survival of humanity itself, we can neither unilaterally disarm nor unilaterally render useless our adversaries’ arsenals. If we were to try to render all our adversaries’ missiles incapable through increased missile defenses, they would simply do what they arguably have already done - develop new, more complex missiles to defeat those systems.

The fourth level of missile defense is the area where there is the most debate. This is where we can argue that our advancements in missile defense over the past two decades, since pulling out of the ABM Treaty, have provided a security blanket against aspiring nuclear powers like North Korea (DPRK) and Iran. However, as the DPRK continues to expand their ballistic missile and nuclear arsenals, we must continually evaluate when we view them as more of a strategic-level threat, and therefore rely on a policy of nuclear deterrence instead of simply trying to out-number their ICBMs with interceptors, such as the Next Generation Interceptor program intends to do. If we decide to try to continue to outpace their ballistic missile expansion, how do Russia and the CCP respond?  I have argued they will certainly see that growth as directly affecting the credibility of their own nuclear forces, which may have dire unintended consequences. I hope that in today’s discussion Mr. Hill can help us understand how the Department continues to weigh those questions and that balance. As this subcommittee evaluates this year’s budget request and the continued missile defense policy and posture of the United States, we must understand these implications for ensuring the strategic stability of America and the world for decades to come.

Level three is a nuance that I think is important to distinguish from a rogue nation, because the size of the system required to deal with it is very different, but continuing to have some ability to defend against a small, even single, accidental launch should be maintained.

At level two, the tactical level, the incredible support Ukraine has received from allies and partners in air and missile defense has enabled them to fight back against near non-stop Russian missile attacks for the past 3 years – though if this body cannot get its act together and pass the languishing supplemental, this is the area in which Ukraine will suffer the most and will have direct impacts on their ability to maintain their sovereign country and territory.

In the Red Sea, we are seeing what many thought was not possible – multi-national, coordinated, and effective missile defense. While U.S. Navy ships have been at the center of defending deployed forces, allies, partners, and commercial shipping vessels from a wide range of air-breathing and ballistic missile threats, they have been working across a multi-nation task force. The French, German and U.K. Navies have all intercepted targets in the Red Sea.  While ideally I believe we need to move towards non-kinetic solutions that flip the cost curve of missile defense, no one can deny the incredible impact today’s missile defense systems are having in the Middle East.

At the foundational level of missile defense—simply detecting these threats—we still have much work to do. However, this past year has marked many successes in domain awareness. In February, MDA’s hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor prototypes were launched, and this budget supports their ongoing testing through 2027. The Space Development Agency also launched their wide-field of view sensors, which will be a key component of the next generation of missile warning and missile track architecture, replacing the legacy “big juicy” satellites currently on-orbit.

As we evaluate the FY25 request for missile defense programs, I will continue to ask the following questions: How will expanding U.S. missile defense today impact strategic stability tomorrow? We are already in an arms race. Will it make our world more safe? And does each investment stabilize or de-stabilize our strategic national security? These are the questions we must ask ourselves on this subcommittee – not just with an eye to this year’s budget and NDAA, but in determining how our decisions will impact the world we leave for our children.