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Congress orders Pentagon to build space weapons that counter missile strikes

An Atlas V rocket launches the Navy's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) 2 satellite from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. MUOS is a next-generation narrow band tactical satellite communications system designed to significantly improve beyond-line-of-sight communications for U.S. forces on the move. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA by Patrick H. Corkery/Released)
June 19, 2018

Congress has directed the Pentagon to immediately begin constructing space-based missile interceptors in order to counter any potential threats from the likes of North Korea or Iran.

The plan would include deploying satellites into space with missile defense systems that could take out potential threats before they are even deployed, the Washington Free Beacon recently reported.

Plans for a space-based interceptor program have been in the works for years but have been met with continued delays.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is pushing new legalization that may finally help the program to materialize.

The proposed legislation is an amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the yearly defense spending bill that funds the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cruz’s bill orders the Pentagon to begin constructing space-based interceptors within the next year.

“The Defense Department has long recognized the benefits of intercepting missiles during their boost phase, including and especially nuclear ICBMs that could be used to threaten the American homeland,” Cruz said. “For the last several years, however, partisan division and bureaucratic inertia have prevented us from taking the critical steps to develop this technology, which is necessary to protect the American people from the weapons being stockpiled by our adversaries at this very moment. I was deeply gratified that both Republicans and Democrats joined me in removing these barriers and paving the way for effective space-based missile interceptors.”

Cruz has been a staunch proponent of advancing the military’s missile defense systems, even going as far as to petition Defense Secretary Jim Mattis directly back in February.

“I remain concerned that we have not developed or fielded the requisite capabilities to intercept ballistic missiles in their most vulnerable stage of flight,” Cruz had said. “In order to credibly reinforce deterrence in the twenty-first century, America must deploy a space-based intercept (SBI) layer that can look down on the ascending threat from the moment of launch, feed information in real-time, and engage the ascending missile during boost phase. This will present more time and intercept opportunities to the United States.”

The Senator is especially concerned with the growing threats from North Korea, China, Iran and other nations that disregard international law and continue to develop advanced weapons capable of striking the U.S. at any time.

“Given the metastasizing nuclear threat from North Korea, Iran’s pursuit of atomic weapons, the growing development of anti-access/area denial capabilities in the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea, and great power competition in space, the case for urgently pursuing a space-based intercept capability has never been stronger,” Cruz said. “Recent investments from China and Russia in missile technology like hypersonic glide vehicles that circumvent our current missile defense architecture further underscore the potential value of a space-based layer for boost phase.”

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act passed the House in May and the Senate approved its version of the NDAA on Tuesday.

The bill is set to be signed into law by the President toward the end of this year following revisions.